Oppose More Dark Money in Politics

Circumventing Due Process + the Walkout

To have a healthy environment, we need a reflective and healthy democracy. On June 6th, NC Republican Senators circumvented the established process for bill votes. Instead of notifying their colleagues and providing the changes beforehand, self-serving senators brought these changes to the floor for a vote. Senator Michael Garret explained it best. He said if lawmakers are truly concerned about “mak[ing] campaign finance [regulation] stronger…and increas[ing] transparency at the General Assembly, we have a process that bills follow. It should go before a committee, we should have experts testify before committee, we should hear from the public.”

Democratic lawmakers were courageous enough to walk out in protest of not only the process by which they brought the changes, but in protest of the changes themselves and the impacts they will have on elections and the public.

Dark Money

 “Dark money” or hidden money given to campaigns is a huge issue in US politics. NC lawmakers are tipping the scale to favor their extreme candidates by eliminating current accountability mechanisms. HB 237 removes funding limits for affiliated party committees of candidates running for executive branch positions. The bill also increases limits from federal PACs directly funding state candidate committees from $4,000 to $6,400.

This might sound like a small increase in funding limits, but this bill also changes disclosure requirements. For instance, donors could contribute $100,000 without this donation being included in campaign finance reports.

This bill also makes it easier for large corporations to influence our elections. The bill would allow corporations to donate unlimited amounts to state political parties who can then give these unlimited funds to state candidates. Instead of North Carolina elections focusing on issues important to North Carolinians, corporations can shift the election by only funding candidates who will help their profit margins, not the best interests of North Carolinians.

This bill comes as Attorney General Josh Stein continues to outperform his opponent Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in fundraising for the Governor’s race.

Mask Restrictions

Additionally, lawmakers combined these campaign finance changes with regulations restricting mask wearing, making the bill more extreme and more dangerous. 

The mask regulations included in the campaign finance bill enable law enforcement to require anyone to remove their mask even if they are wearing it for disease prevention. HB 237, also named “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals Act,” allows an “owner or occupant of public or private property” to request someone to temporarily remove their mask for the purpose of identification. There is no further clarity on who is considered this owner or occupant, which creates the potential opportunity for any citizen to request someone else to remove their mask. The bill’s ambiguous language poses new challenges for anyone who still needs to wear a mask and shapes a new precedent for citizen overreach. 

Although the bill’s latest version now has health and safety exemptions, allowing the public to wear “medical or surgical grade for the purpose of preventing the spread of contagious disease,” the exemption does not extend to those wearing respirator masks that protect people from hazardous chemicals. HB 237 couples unnecessary mask restrictions with ineffective campaign finance laws to undermine the health of North Carolinians and our democracy.

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