How many West Virginians would support a scheme to spend taxpayer dollars to help insulate incumbent judges from criticism and to make it easier for them to stay in office?Public financing means candidates get your money without having to ask.
Other than incumbents' family members, cronies, and hangers-on, support would be minimal. Incumbents might even hesitate to voice approval, fearing reprisal at the ballot box.
But call it the Public-Financing-For-Trust Act (PFFT) and watch the favorable poll numbers climb. It sounds like a "good government" measure to support.
PFFT is the perfect acronym because "Pfft!" is the response incumbents will make to public opinion when they know their campaigns will be financed by the taxpayers regardless of the job they do. That's "Pfft!" as in "so what!" or "who cares?"
The House of Delegates recently approved Gov. Joe Manchin's pilot program for public financing of the two state Supreme Court seats to be contested in the 2012 election. The Delegates pointed to a recent poll indicating that 52 percent of West Virginia voters support public financing of such elections.
Those polled apparently were swayed by the constant reassurance of representatives of the status quo that it was a sensible and progressive idea.
Raising money for a political campaign may be difficult and troubling. Judges and and other elected officials may prefer to avoid it. But public financing makes it easier for incumbents to stay in office and it actually rewards incompetent incumbents who deserve no reward. How does the public benefit then?
Public financing means you must contribute to the campaigns of candidates you oppose.
Public financing means you can't use your money to support or oppose a candidate.
Public financing means the incumbent -- with name recognition and status -- has a tremendous advantage over challengers who can't spend a penny more than the incumbent.
Public financing is a good name for a bad idea. Public fleecing is our view of it. This pilot program needs to crash.