"Special interest money continues to pollute our democracy and trump every policy decision." (Washington Public Campaigns).
"Campaign finance laws can be crafted to promote more open, honest, and accountable government and to bring the constitutional ideal of political equality closer to reality." (The Brennan Center).
Governor Rod Blagojevich's recent arrest for bribery just highlighted what's wrong with the American electoral system: Government is auctioned off publicly and sometimes behind closed doors to the highest bidder.
The high bidder in any political campaign wins power to influence the appointment of public officials and influence legislation. Do we really need any more proof of this fact than the unfolding Blagojevich scandal?
In the state of Washington, Washington Public Campaigns (WPC) tells citizens, "Justice is not for sale."
The Judicial Selection Coalition recently sponsored a conference that examined the way the state elects judges at the University of Washington. Speakers included James Sample from the New York based Brennan Center who talked about extreme efforts to "buy" elections in other states such as W Virginia, Michigan and Alabama. David Brady, A WSU researcher reported that he conducted opinion polling that shows public support for using some kind of a commission system for electing judges.
WPC is working hard to pass legislation that will require campaigns for supreme court to be financed by citizens - not by special interests. In support of this effort, they offer voters the following analysis of judicial elections:
In 2006, $4.5 million was spent trying to win just 3 seats for the Washington state supreme court. It's outrageous! We must change the system - so that judges are never suspected of influence by financial backers.
Read "Justice for Sale" Wall Street Journal, by James Sample, at the Brennan Center for Justice (NY University School of Law).
State Representative Mark Liias is drafting a bill that will provide a foundation for a public financing system for court races. He plans to introduce it during the 2009 legislative session.
Alex Hayes of Justice for Washington told attendees that trial lawyers and other left leaning interests have too much influence on Washington Courts. (In fact, author John Grisham, a former state legislator, recently wrote a book called The Appeal that discusses in detail the corrupting influence of Special Interest money in state supreme court judicial races).
To date, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina have adopted some version of a public financing system for campaigns and The Olympian reports that Governor Christine Gregoire embraced the concept for judicial races in 2006 after that year's nasty court campaigns. But the Governor was unable to find a funding source, even in good economic times.
Connecticut is the only state to enact a program of full public financing for statewide and legislative races through legislative action (rather than through citizen initiative, as in Maine and Arizona).
WPC said, let's have public funding for supreme court campaigns. Washington Public Campaigns - together with the League of Women Voters and many other organizations - is proposing a bill to the 2009 legislature, for public financing of campaigns for the state supreme court. DETAILS
We know the state faces a budget shortfall, but we cannot afford justice for sale. Together with sponsors in the Senate and House, we are proposing a modest-cost bill, that will achieve our goals: integrity for the supreme court, through public financing of campaigns.
It won't be a cakewalk, and we need all hands on deck for a grassroots movement. We must educate the public, and lobby our legislators, with a disciplined and powerful grassroots advocacy campaign. Join the movement: Become a citizen lobbyist! Write to: email@example.com, with your offers to help."
Washington Public Campaigns: http://www.washclean.org/blog.htm#not4sale
Voting for Judges: http://www.votingforjudges.org/
Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns: (Washington State). http://www.judicialselection.us/uploads/documents/WA_Judicial_Oversight_Committee_pur_C8A394361F451.pdf
The Olympian: http://www.theolympian.com/legislature/v-print/story/672311.html
The Brennan Center for Justice:http://brennancenterevents.com/