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The battle for ethics

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Remember Regnat Populus, the committee formed to push an ethics reform law onto the 2012 election ballot? On account of a late start — and a huge failure by a private firm hired to canvass for signatures — the group gave up on making the ballot this year.

But it soon after filed a new initiative proposal expanded to include state constitutional officers as well as the legislature in the ban on gifts to public officials. The measure continues a two-year waiting period to become a lobbyist. It also bans direct corporate and union contributions to campaigns, though not PAC donations.

The idea is to get the measure on the 2014 ballot. The early start was intended to provide time to have a good proposal for canvassers to take to polls on Election Day this week. Election Day is a good gathering opportunity but Regnat Populus mostly hoped for a little public exposure to jumpstart a conversation about the expanded measure.

No luck. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel stood in the way. He twice has turned down drafts of the proposal as too ambiguous for approval by his office as to form.

Paul Spencer, the Catholic High teacher who's been spearheading the effort, wrote backers: "As you may now be aware, the attorney general's office did not approve of our ballot title. In spite of a speedy re-submission by our head legal authority, David Couch, it is doubtful that we will be able to canvass on Election Day. However, please stand at the ready — our movement will only be a success with your help."

In the attorney general's last opinion, he said the revised version of the proposal still appeared ambiguous as to whether it barred all but gifts from relatives to named public officials or also made some additional limitations on gifts by the public officials. He also cited other unspecified deficiencies in punctuation and wording.

The drive has until summer of 2014 to gather the necessary signatures.


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