Looking Forward: Public Financing in 2013 and Beyond
When this report went to press, the fate of judicial public financing in the states was mixed. In North Carolina, opponents of the state's public financing program succeeded in repealing it, despite its popularity with the public. Public financing also faced a loss in Wisconsin in 2011, when the public financing program was defunded and subsequently repealed.
New Mexico also missed an opportunity to strengthen its public financing program in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett. This decision was interpreted by a lower court as barring the state’s “trigger matching” program, which gave judicial candidates additional public funds in response to high levels of opposition spending. Overruling an overwhelming bipartisan majority, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a reform bill in 2013 that would have strengthened the state’s public financing system. The bill would have instituted a small-donor matching proposal to replace the trigger matching funds provision that had been struck down. Under the proposal, participating candidates would receive an initial grant from the state, but then would be allowed to raise additional small contributions that the state would match with public funds at a 4–1 ratio. Governor Martinez said she vetoed the bill because it did not do enough to reform New Mexico's judicial selection process.
In West Virginia, there was substantially better news for public financing. The state legislature voted in 2013 to make West Virginia’s pilot public financing program for Supreme Court races permanent. The legislature also substantially increased the block grants available under the program, ensuring that its public financing program would remain attractive to candidates and provide them with sufficient funds to run credible campaigns without depending on influence-seeking contributions.