...The wide-ranging elections overhaul bill approved by Republican legislators last summer and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory eliminated the option taxpayers had to earmark $3 of their tax payment for the previous year to their favored political party.
The tax "checkoff" program, started in the mid-1970s during post-Watergate campaign finance reforms, was swept aside as enough Republicans decided government shouldn't accumulate tax money for parties. Now the money will remain in state coffers.
For all of the essential services state government should perform, "I do not believe soliciting funds for political parties is one of them," said Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance and a sponsor of a separate bill to do away with the political party checkoff now offered by fewer than 10 other states.
Parties "should stand on their own two feet," Riddell added. "They are not charitable organizations."
While the abolishment of the political party checkoff hits the state Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties, Democrats argue Republicans passed the bill knowing it would hurt Democrats the most. The Democratic Party received $3.5 million of the combined $5.7 million disbursed from the checkoffs since 2009, according to the State Board of Elections.
The tax checkoff money was "an asset to our party operations for decades," Casey Mann, the state Democratic Party's new executive director, said in a release last week.
Also repealed in the elections law is a similar $3 tax "checkoff" whose proceeds helped pay for a now-defunct voluntary public financing program for appellate court judgeships. Now all appeals court candidates, who run in nonpartisan elections, are on their own to raise campaign money.
Checkoffs have been used to promote public financing of campaigns and increase public participation in elections. McCrory recommended both checkoff repeals in his 2013 budget proposal. His budget director is Art Pope, a conservative activist and longtime critic of such programs on philosophical grounds.