Beacham: Public funds may stop political corruption

Published 1:14 pm Thursday, March 8, 2007

By Staff
Democrats hear ideas on ending corruption
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The ethics scandal involving former state House Speaker Jim Black is enough to warrant public financing of political campaigns, a leader from Democracy North Carolina said Tuesday night.
Sanctioning such public financing is the best way to “level the playing field,” and stop dirty politics, said Molly Beacham, director of development for the Carrboro-based organization. Beacham spoke at the Beaufort County Democratic Party rally, which was held at the courthouse.
Democracy North Carolina filed a complaint about illegal donations to Black’s campaign in June 2004. On Feb. 15 of this year, Black pleaded guilty to a corruption charge.
Setting up public financing for politicians would ensure that once they’re elected, they are public servants rather than special-interest puppets, Beacham said. A few states, including Maine and Arizona, already have public-finance laws in place.
Democracy North Carolina is a nonpartisan organization that works to “fulfill the promise of one person, one vote,” through a variety of methods, but one of its major efforts relates to campaign-finance reform, she said.
The group is promoting a plan designed to create a public-finance fund. Checking a box on the state income-tax form allows taxpayers to contribute $3 to the fund. It provides “an alternative source” of campaign dollars for statewide judicial candidates if they accept spending limits and refuse donations from special-interest groups. Beacham said her organization hopes the fund will soon be used by the governor and members of the state “cabinet,” as well as members of the General Assembly.
Beacham said some voters are also “fearful” of financing politicians’ campaigns because they believe that kind of move would make taxes increase.
That means politicians won’t be stuffing “pork” into legislative bills or OKing projects that taxpayers foot the bill for in the long run, Beacham said.