State News

Senate panel strips public campaign financing from ethics bill

Posted June 24, 2010 11:05 a.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2010 6:52 p.m. EDT

— A Senate committee on Thursday dropped a proposal from an ethics reform bill that would provide public financing of campaigns for more statewide office-seekers.

The judiciary panel voted to delete the proposal from the larger bill after opposition by Republicans and 100,000 automated calls by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity that targeted voters in districts of several Democrats.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate addressed people in the automated calls, saying the public campaign financing would be a burden to businesses statewide.

"With double-digit unemployment in North Carolina, we should not be raising taxes to fund political campaigns," McCrory said in calls.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt wanted to keep the expansion. The committee has delayed a vote on the bill until next week to gain bipartisan support.

"We want to make sure we have it right, and I firmly believe that there has to be bipartisan support," said Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga.

Republican senators have suggested amendments to the ethics bill calling for limits to donations to state political parties, more disclosures from appointees to state boards and commissions and equal representation on the State Board of Elections.

"I hope that we'll be able to hear as many of those as possible in the time that we have here," Goss said.

"I don't care how long it takes. I think there's flaws in this bill that need work," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.

Campaign reform advocates say expanding public financing would reduce the perception that elected officials who regulate industries aren't beholden to campaign contributors. They acknowledge that more can be done, but they're concerned a lengthy debate will result in no action.

"We've got to figure out how to get from here to there, and we will," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

The committee chairs plan to bring the ethics bill up again Tuesday morning and hope to have something wrapped up next week. If passed by the committee and the full Senate, the amended bill would head back to the House for debate.