FRANKFORT, Ky. - Fearing wealthy donors might unduly influence Supreme Court races, a Kentucky lawmaker is pushing a longshot proposal that would create a public financing system for would-be justices on the state's highest court.
State Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said the legislation, House Bill 230 , is needed in the wake of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, known as the Citizens United case, that paved the way for corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to contribute as much as they want to independent political groups to support candidates and causes.
"It's conceivable that special interests could buy Supreme Court justices and put them on the bench," Wayne said. "We think that our system is vulnerable to this type of purchase of Supreme Court justices."
Proponents of public finances for justices contend that unscrupulous donors could have a broader impact on the Supreme Court with seven seats than on the state Legislature with 138 seats. They insist justices should be shielded from that influence.
In the Citizens United case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that independent spending by corporations does "not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."
Wayne pointed to West Virginia as an example of big money influencing a state Supreme Court race.
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