Yesterday’s Chapel Hill News featured an article by Civitas intern Sarah Hardin, in which she makes the case why the town’s pilot program forcing taxpayers to finance the campaigns of candidates for local offices didn’t live up to promises.
Chapel Hill’s voter-owned elections program had its first run in 2009 and is already being heralded as a success. Supporters say the municipal elections achieved all of the aims that taxpayer-funded campaigns are meant to achieve.
The only thing that public financing really achieved, however, was victory for the candidates who used it.
There are many lofty benefits promised by supporters of voter-owned elections. Proponents argue that taxpayer-funded campaigns will level the playing field and allow for more candidates who are unable to finance their campaigns to run. Last fall’s municipal elections, however, suggest otherwise. The only candidates to use public financing were not newcomers to Chapel Hill politics. Mark Kleinschmidt was a member of the Town Council when he ran for mayor, and Penny Rich ran for the Town Council two years prior.
Hardin also notes that Chapel Hill didn’t experience a spike in candidate participation (as promised by advocates of taxpayer-funded campaigns) and exposes a double standard regarding the reporting requirements of third-party support for candidates.
Those invested in the collectivization of political campaign financing will tout any such experiment as a success because their ultimate aim is to extend the method to all local and state campaigns.