campaign finance

Voter-owned elections for Chapel Hill

The Town of Chapel Hill is proposing a system to provide public financing to candidates that can demonstrate a base level of community support. This can be a great way to help candidates focus more on talking to voters and less time on raising money.

The Council discussed this at their meeting tonight. Did anyone else watch this? If so, can you explain Kevin Wolff's comments, because I didn't find him especially coherent. He kept calling himself "viable" and claimed that incumbents running for re-election was hypocritical.

Chapel Hill is the first municipality in North Carolina to receive legislative authorization to provide a locally funded public campaign financing program. Session Law 2007-222 provides the following key requirements.

It's going to cost how much?

Note: The DTH source article was incorrect; read Bob Hall's comment below. Thanks, Bob. -JB

Did anyone else read the article in today's Daily Tar Heel about the meeting of the Mayor's Committee on Campaign Finance on Monday? Below is an excerpt, which concerns me a bit..

The committee decided to include rescue funds as a separate provision despite concerns about complicating the campaign process, financing the fund and enforcing the necessary spending reports.

Benchmarks for matching candidates' spending with public funding also were also established.

Candidates for council office will receive $3,000 in public funds if they can raise $750 from personal contributions and $2,250 from other local avenues.

Mayoral candidates must raise $1,500 in personal contributions and an additional $4,500 from community sources to be matched with $6,000 in public funds.

"It does open up the field to more citizens who do have a real base in the community but may not necessarily have access to a lot of money," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a Durham-based nonprofit that advocates for campaign reform.

They spent HOW MUCH?

I've had several people contact me and ask for a post about the final 2007 campaign finance figures. (And yet none of them offerred to write it themselves, hmmm.) The results are pretty interesting. The Independent Weekly wrote a summary including Chapel Hill.

He placed fourth in the race, but first in cash: Council challenger Matt Czajkowski spent at least $20,000 in the election cycle—more than fellow candidates Sally Greene, Cam Hill and Bill Strom combined. Ninety percent came from Czajkowski's own pocket, via $17,750 in self-loans.

Czajkowski came in fourth in the seven-person race for four seats, squeaking by incumbent Hill by 63 votes.

In total, Strom raised $9,380 and spent $6,497; Greene raised $7,881 and spent $5,669; and Hill raised $5,485 and spent $5,566 (he had cash on hand from his 2003 race). Top vote-getter and incumbent Jim Ward, who pledged not to spend more than $3,000, had not submitted a final report as of Jan. 29.

Money in local politics

I read on Chapel Hill Town Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt's blog that the NC General Assembly is considering allowing Chapel Hill to establish a program for public financing in municipal elections. With some notable exceptions, I actually think Chapel Hill and Carrboro are some of the few places where money does not control local elections. (Mostly, I just want to put a muzzle on Chapel Hill Mayoral candidates.) But if it's an opportunity to show other communities how this can be done, I'm all for it.

Does Campaign Spending Matter?

To move away from the heat of the recent campaign but keep the focus on the relevance of campaign spending on local races, I’d like to look back at 1995. After that election, the Herald did an analysis of spending per vote for all the candidates. The results are pretty instructive. (Note: we can’t do that analysis for this year until February when the final spending reports are in.)

First and third place Chapel Hill finishers, Capowski and Andresen, spent almost the same amount per vote: $1.34 and $1.32 respectively

Second place finisher Chilton was low-spender among the winners at only $0.46 per vote. That helps explain his reputation as a savvy campaigner. (Chilton was also a strong proponent of the voluntary spending limits initiated that year by the Greens and Sierra Club).



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