In this article, the N&O’s Steve Ford throws our First Amendment rights under the bus in his desire to advocate for a system that uses force to compel taxpayers to finance political campaigns.
Public financing is the optimal solution to the problem of excessive special-interest influence on elections. North Carolina has used it with good results in campaigns for appellate judgeships and for key regulatory posts. Candidates who agree to limit their fundraising from private sources are bankrolled with public funds. The concept is sound, although it must provide candidates with enough money to campaign effectively, and there’s some question as to whether it does.
The complete erosion of our freedom of expression, along with compelling citizens to finance the expression of ideas they may abhor Ford labels as an “optimal solution.” But there are no “solutions,” merely trade-offs. And Ford is all too willing to trade off our freedoms for a system that fails to deliver on its promises. Its especially disturbing that a newspaper editor would so haphazardly disregard our freedom of expression.
He further declares the system of public financing for judicial races to have yielded “good results” here in North Carolina, but as usual does not explain how he defines “good results.” Good for whom? And how is that measured?
I’ve written before how taxpayer-funded political campaigns fail to deliver on their promised results. Extensive studies have concluded that private, voluntary contributions have little influence over voting habits of elected officials, nor does the use of taxpayer-funded campaigns alter their behavior. More than likely, candidates receive support from special interests because the candidates first display sympathy to various groups’ causes, not the other way around.
Ford also labels Arizona as “a leader in so-called ‘clean elections’ public financing.” But we should learn from their experience. Even the Arizona Republic admitted that their experience with taxpayer-financed campaigns had resulted in “a system that limits free speech, unfairly favors certain candidates, keeps powerful special interests in the game and drains funds from state priorities.”
Money flows toward power. If one is serious about ridding politics of the influence of money, then they must advocate for reducing the amount of power held by politicians. Sadly, however, advocates of taxpayer-funded campaigns like Ford want to grant the political class even more power over our lives.