The House Judiciary I Committee today, by a narrow 6-5 vote (party
lines), passed a bill that would create a pilot program for taxpayer
financing of legislative races.

If you hear partying down at the
legislature today, it’s because of this bill.  The bill, which I
will call “The Incumbent Protection Act of 2006” will help ensure that
incumbents have almost no chance of losing an election.  When
funds are equalized (which these systems try and do), guess who has the
advantage: the incumbent or the challenger?  You guessed it:
incumbents have an overwhelming advantage because of name recognition,
media exposure, etc.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court in its infamous
Buckley v. Valeo decision understood that equalized funding is a

?Moreover, the equalization of permissible campaign
expenditures might serve not to equalize the opportunities of all
candidates, but to handicap a candidate who lacked substantial name
recognition or exposure of his views before the start of the campaign.?

who want more candidates in elections and challengers that have a
better chance to win elections accomplished the opposite.  The
legislators playing the reform angle are loving life.  They don’t
have to clean up the system or change the legislative rules so all
voices are heard–instead, they get to make it look like they are for
real reform while further entrenching their power.

It was
interesting hearing some legislators express concern that there are
First Amendment problems, but yet they still voted for the bill. 
To them, the courts can take care of the problem.    

one First Amendment issue (one of many): Taxpayer financing compels
taxpayers to support political speech they oppose.  Even though it
is supposed to be funded through voluntary contributions, the system
will be financed by taxpayers (see the judicial campaign finance
system).  Conservative have to support liberal candidates. 
Liberals have to support conservative candidates.  Don’t like
it?  Too bad!  The House Judiciary I Committee knows best,
and magically knows the precise amount of money needed in elections.

Some may argue this is just a pilot test:

Taxpayer financing has been tested in NC already–twice.  First
with the failed Governor’s program and now with the disastrous judicial
campaign finance system (6-7% of taxpayers voluntary supported the
program–as a result, General Fund dollars were used to fund the system
and attorneys are now required to fund the system).

– Do we
really need to test a program that protects incumbents, violates the
First Amendment, and will lead to higher taxes?  For six
legislators today, we apparently do.

– This is just the start of
a fully taxpayer-financed legislative election system–unless
legislators actually find their ethics and want to protect the First

Today was a good day for incumbents and a bad day
for everyone else.  Of course, isn’t this the pattern with the NC