'Voter-owned elections' reform is a sham

The way Democrats in the General Assembly attempted to expand public financing of campaigns to all Council of State races was a clear example of the very corruption of power the scheme was supposed to end. The measure was created behind closed doors, without any public hearings and introduced on the floor without notice and at the last minute.

Only the quick reaction by hundreds of voters and taxpayers, mobilized by Americans for Prosperity, thwarted this latest attack on civil rights.

Public financing of campaigns, misleadingly called “voter-owned elections” by supporters, is a sham. It should more accurately be called “welfare for politicians.” Under the smokescreen of reform, the plan would restrict the right of voters to support candidates of their choice, while forcing them to help pay for the campaigns of candidates they may oppose.

Compelling anyone to pay for something they oppose is not merely dishonest and immoral, it’s also a greater corruption of our political system than any donations or influence from lobbyists and special interests.

This particular version of the mock reform takes that dishonesty and corruption to a new low. It would have been funded by extorting money, under the guise of fees, from the very businesses and industries the Council of State members are supposed to regulate.

In an editorial supporting the measure, the News and Observer said “No candidate would be forced to go the public funding route.” The editors didn’t seem to mind that the people would be forced to support candidates who decide to eat at the public trough. It’s curious that a newspaper would support this infringement on First Amendment rights. Maybe it’s because such bills only limit individual rights and do not apply to media corporations.

Restricting the right of people to give to the candidate of their choice is restricting their free speech. Donating to a political campaign or candidate is no different than making telephone calls, knocking on doors or stuffing envelopes. Some people can give their time and talent, but for many people, perhaps most, the only way they can support both their families and the candidates they favor is with what little treasure they can spare.

Supporters of public campaign financing claim it’s needed to save elected officials from the demands of raising money for election and the pressure exerted by special interests groups.

“Between the constant fundraising demands on politicians and the scores of high-paid lobbyists looking to shape public policy, we have created a system where the issues of the people take a backseat to the few who have the resources to push their agenda,” said Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, in an op ed published in the News and Observer.

Libertarians have no such sympathy for politicians. We hold them to a higher standard. If people who offer themselves for public service don’t have the courage, integrity and intestinal fortitude to resist these demands and pressures and stand up for their own beliefs and for what is right, they shouldn’t run for office in the first place.

The root of corruption in government stems not from lobbyist or special interest money but from taxpayer money. Corruption is only perpetuated by weak-willed elected officials who fail to keep their oath of office and then make excuses for their failure.

To end corruption in government, we must remove the ability to corrupt or be corrupted. As long as government isn’t limited in what it can spend your money on there will always be people who will find a way to get the politicians to spend it on them.