It should be noted that since 1992, not a single judicial candidate, Republican or Democrat, have ever been slated without paying the fee. Former Marion County judges, once out of the system, have all said the slating fees were mandatory when they were running.
In its 2012 opinion, the Commission provided some guidance to shed light on the practice, perhaps to end the ruse of simply calling the fees "voluntary" to get around the rules. I quote from the opinion letter:
While not an exhaustive list, some of the factors the Commission believes are important to evaluate when considering whether a payment is voluntary include the timing of the payment, particularly if it must be paid by a certain time, such as before a slating convention, whether anyone from the political party communicated to the judicial candidate that the payment is expected, and whether the amount contributed by all judicial candidates during an election cycle is the same (assuming o further explanation for the coincidence.
Let's apply those factors to the slated Marion County Republican judicial candidates to see if they violated the Code of Judicial Conduct:
- All of the endorsed candidates paid a $12,000 slating fee
- All paid the slating fee before the slating convention.
- The party communicated to the candidates the amount of the slating fee before the slating convention.
- Judicial candidates, like candidates for other offices, were not provided a list of voters at the slating convention until the slating fee was paid.
- The slating fee equals 10% of a judges annual salary. Slating fees always are 10% of the annual salary of the office that is sought.
- The party, like with all slating contests, refunds 80% of the slating fee for judges if they're not slated and do not run in the primary. If they run in the primary, the party keeps 100% of the $12,000. If it were a voluntary political contribution, why would they ever refund the money?