Big money is still rolling into state political races. No surprise there, but the amount is staggering. Democracy North Carolina reported Friday that legislative candidates are on track to raise more than $30 million combined for the 2006 election. The previous record was the $26 million raised in the 2004 election.
The group points out the money is pouring in at record levels even though half the legislative candidates do not have an opponent on the ballot on Tuesday. Many of the unopposed candidates continue to raise money to pass on to other candidates and their political party or to build up a war chest to scare off future challengers and impress the political observers. Money means power in politics these days.
A report from Democracy North Carolina several years ago found that one percent of the people in the state contribute 90 percent of the campaign money raised by candidates. If you need something from the General Assembly, being a one-percenter gives you a much better chance.
Candidates who need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to run for office would be foolish not to spend a lot of time talking to the one-percenters and returning their calls first. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for the rest of us.
The report also points out all the legal money laundering that’s going on. Not only are individual candidates receiving contributions and then passing them on to other candidates, allowing contributors to skirt the donation limits, legislative leaders are raising massive amounts of money, then using the political parties to funnel the money to candidates in close races.
Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight has given the N.C. Democratic Party more than a million dollars. It will be sent out to other candidates in huge chunks, helping the candidate and reinforcing his or her loyalty to Basnight. Republicans are laundering money through their party too, but in smaller amounts.
Solving the overall problem of big money dominating elections will require comprehensive reform that includes some version of public financing already in place in Maine and Arizona. But lawmakers ought to stop the money laundering this coming session by limiting how much political parties can contribute to individual candidates.
Site Selection Magazine’s November issue is out and the cover story is the annual ranking of state’s business climates. North Carolina ranked first, again. It was number one last year too and has led the rankings for five of the last six years.
The state also was ranked number one in an important subset of the rankings, the Executive Survey Business Climate Rankings. The article announcing the results had all sort of comments from business leaders praising the state’s work force, fast permitting, universities, quality of life, and other attributes.
No where in the story was a mention of the state’s tax rates as a problem. Business leaders know that state taxes are not out of line. That shows up in the rankings and in the fact that so many companies continue to locate in North Carolina.
That must drive the anti-tax crowd crazy. They spend so much time and energy trying to convince us that business taxes are hurting economic development, only to have business leaders themselves say the opposite. Maybe we can finally move on and start talking about real problems in the state, like the lack of affordable health care or the high school dropout rate.
Just when you think you have heard it all in this odd campaign year comes this. More than one person has reported receiving a mailer that includes a picture of Osama Bin Laden on a North Carolina driver’s license. The ad is targeting Democrats who Republicans allege did not do enough to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving a valid license.
Whatever your take on the issue, implying that anyone wants to allow Bin Laden to receive a driver’s license in North Carolina is a bit much. But that is nature of the 2006 campaign that mercifully ends Tuesday evening.