Pro-Life Groups Sue Over Judicial Campaign Financing
Special Report - August 9, 2005
On August 8, the James Madison Center for Free Speech filed a class action lawsuit against North Carolina's public financing program for judicial races, calling it “an unconstitutional infringement” on the free speech rights of political candidates who do not participate but raise their own funds instead. The federal lawsuit was brought on behalf of state Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Jackson, the North Carolina Right to Life Committee Fund for Independent Political Expenditures, and North Carolina Right to Life State Political Action Committee. The lawsuit contends that certain provisions in the public financing program unfairly restrict a non-participating candidate’s ability to raise and spend their own funds, and limit the ability of third parties, such as PACs, to contribute financially to that candidate.
Enacted in 2002, the voluntary program provides public funding to candidates who run for the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The program requires participating candidates to agree to specific restrictions on fund-raising from outside parties. Under the program, the state provides additional “rescue funds” to participating candidates who are being outspent by their opponents by matching each dollar a non-participating candidate raises for their campaign, once a certain amount is reached. To determine whether the participating candidate is eligible for the additional funds, the state includes financial contributions raised by third parties either in support of or against a candidate. According to the James Madison Center for Free Speech, the system also includes a provision that “bans contributions made 21 days before an election and imposes a 24-hour reporting requirement on independent contributions made by PACs.” In the lawsuit, Judge Jackson, who did not qualify to participate in the state funding program during her 2004 campaign, argues that the program restricted her ability to raise and spend her own campaign funds, forcing her to turn away contributions that were made in the last 21 days of the campaign. The North Carolina Right to Life PACs contend that the program limits their ability to contribute or raise funds in support of a candidate.
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