by Max Brantley
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office today slowed down ethics reform in Arkansas. It rejected the first proposed ballot initiative of the Regnat Populus 2012 reform movement because of a "partisan" name and a potential constitutional problem. Here's the full opinion. I'm sure the group will attempt to rework it.
Here's the popular name rejected as partisan: The Campaign Finance Transparency and
Lobbying Reform Act of 2012. The word "transparency" has an "obvious" positive ring, said the opinion written by Beth Walker. Furthermore, she said it suggests heightened reporting, when the measure will not produce heightened reporting but, effectively less reporting. It would eliminate direct corporate campaign contributions to state candidates and end lobbyist expenditures on legislators. "Reform" is also a loaded word, said the opinion.
She also noted that the proposal as written would appear to prohibit political party contributions to candidates and this has been held to be unconstitutional, though caps on such spending have been upheld.
The opinion cited several smaller potential questions.
The grassroots group needs to gather more than 60,000 signatures on an approved proposal by July to qualify for the November ballot. It's critical that a proposal be in hand for the May primaries, a prime time to gather signatures. Here's the group's website.
UPDATE: Statement from the group:
Our attorneys are working over the weekend on a revision and look forward to resubmitting the ballot initiative as soon as possible. We will release another statement at that time.