Voters will fill two seats on the state Supreme Court this fall, and the eight candidates vying for nominations in the May 8 primary election had raised a total of $1.8 million for their campaigns as of March 30.
All of it, of course, came from one group or another with an interest in the makeup of the court and the rulings it produces. Virtually any system created, including gubernatorial appointment, would reflect such pressures, although the public would have more trouble discerning what they were.
Some think public financing of campaigns is the answer, and the Legislature was persuaded to make the state Supreme Court race a pilot program for that idea. It’s off to a weak start.
To fund the program, the Legislature agreed to withdraw $1 million from an account that Lawrence Messina of described as “related to the state auditor’s purchase card system” to provide public funds for high court candidates.
Longtime Supreme Court clerk Alan Loughry, a Republican, is the only candidate participating. The program offered him as much as $50,000 for the primary — it would have been more in a contested primary — and as much as $350,000 for the general election.
No harm done, but the idea is not showing much promise either.
Legislators rejected other potential revenue sources — fees levied on lawyers and court filings, money from the treasurer’s unclaimed property trust fund, and a voluntary check-off on personal income tax returns.
Small wonder. It would be hard to explain to people who became ensnarled in some state bureaucracy why they should be volunteered to bankroll Supreme Court candidates.
As for state personal income taxpayers agreeing to bankroll the campaigns of people they may or may not support, tens of millions of federal taxpayers have declined to provide funding for presidential campaigns.
That leaves involuntary taxpayer funding of political campaigns.
— Distributed by The Associated Press