How to Curb Money’s Clout on Judges

     DALLAS (CN) – A Texas lawmaker proposed a bill to reduce money’s influence on the judiciary by giving candidates for state appellate courts the option to use public financing only in their campaigns.
     State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, introduced House Bill 1126. If enacted, it would apply to justices on the state’s two highest appellate courts – the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – and to justices of the state’s 14 intermediate appeals courts.
     A campaign finance fund and state commission would be created, and the commission would determine before each election cycle how much public financing a candidate will receive.
     Races for the two highest courts would be allocated 25 percent of the money in the fund; candidates for the intermediate courts would be allocated the rest.
     “Money accepted by a candidate from the fund is considered to be a campaign contribution to the candidate,” the bill states. “A candidate may use money accepted from the fund only for expenses related to the candidate’s campaign for election.”
     Candidates would be prohibited from using the money to make political contributions to third parties, to pay for campaign expenditures for another office or for officeholder expenditures.
     Violators would not receive any more payments from the fund and face civil penalties of three times the amount of money used in the violation.
     Any money not used must be returned to the state within 30 days of the candidate’s defeat in the primary, runoff or general election or victory in the general election.
     Candidates who accept public financing and accept other political contributions would face civil penalties of three times the amount of unauthorized campaign contributions received.
     If passed, HB 1126 would take effect on Sept. 1.
     The bill faces a tough slog in the state House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 95 to 55.
     Anchia, first elected in 2004, represents House District 103, which includes parts of western Dallas, North Oak Cliff, Love Field, and parts of Irving, Farmers Branch and Carrollton.
     He is a partner with Haynes Boone in Dallas.

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