Campaign Finance Reform

Judicial Elections Public Financing: Balancing Independent Courts and Voter Choice

Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will support their interests.  This is perhaps the most troubling example of money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics it gives us pay-to-win justice.  The independence of the judiciary simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls. 


Examples of the corrupting power of money in politics abound, from the Jack Abramoff scandal that put a congressman and several others in jail, to Illinois Governor George Ryan's conviction on racketeering charges.  Beyond the overt corruption, the power of big money corporate interests thwarts efforts toward the basic reforms that are desperately needed by the people of this country, such as healthcare for all.  And the money needed to compete in elections, and therefore the opportunity for money to corrupt the system, is growing rapidly.  In the 2006 election cycle, state-level candidates raised 2.3 billion dollars.  Of that, 869 million was raised by state legislative candidates, a 32% increase from 2002.  

State lawmakers can lead the way on ending the corrupting influence of money over politics and build a government that puts the needs of ordinary citizens first.  The key is to change the way elections are financed, enforce restrictions on corporate lobbyists, and reform the process by which public contracts are awarded.