by Max Brantley
A surreptitious effort has begun circulating in the Arkansas business community to encourage people not to sign petitions now circulating to improve Arkansas ethics law.
The business community HATES democracy. Thus they are urging people NOT to sign three voter initiatives — to increase the pitifully low severance tax, an effort to end the Oaklawn/Southland monopoly on casino gambling and, now, better government ethics.
The latest flyer tries to make people think the ethics proposal is the work of Occupy Little Rock, those grungy hippies recently evicted from a gravel parking lot in Little Rock, to the great relief of authoritarians everywhere.
The ethics initiative may be supported by the small band of OLR people (I hope it is), but it is the work of a Catholic High teacher, Paul Spencer, and friends and fellow good government travelers, including the likes of Dale Bumpers, John Paul Hammerschmidt, Jim Keet, Jim Argue and other similarly disreputable sorts who've also never worked a day in their lives.
Naturally, it is unsigned. I wouldn't want to identify myself as author of such mendacity either. "Deeply entertwined with Occupy Little Rock"? It's a lie. Period. More baloney:
Supporters of this effort portray the goals of this reform as transparency and accountability in government. But, The Campaign Finance and Lobbying Reform Act of 2012 is more directed at limiting the influence of small business on Arkansas politics than improving the integrity of the political system of the state.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that restricting businesses’ ability to support political causes, in essence, restricts a corporation’s (and its employees’) ability to express themselves freely – in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
More lies. The proposal puts no limit on free expression. It does prohibit, as federal law does, direct corporate contributions to political candidates. Good suits may still spend individually and also spend independently as a corporation. The proposal does make a lawmaker wait two years before becoming a lobbyist. It does prohibit gifts to lawmakers, otherwise known as petty bribery.
Businesses hate this idea because they know how much they can buy for relatively small outlays. I asked the Markham Group, leading the anti-democracy effort on two other ballot initiatives, if this was their work. No, Robert McLarty said. I have questions in as well to the Arkansas and Little Rock chambers of commerce, the Poultry Federation and the National Federation of Independent Business, all likely suspects as enablers, if not the originators, of this slimy flyer. They like things just the way they are. And you need look no further than the corporate-controlled statute books of Arkansas to understand why.
Sign the petitions. Vote for better ethics.
PS — I'd be proud to have Occupy LR on my side. The chamber bullies? Not so much.
UPDATE: Randy Zook says the State Chamber is not involved "in any way." Jay Chesshir, of the Little Rock chamber, says he's "not aware of this." Marvin Childers said the source "IS not the Poultry Federation." Sylvester Smith of NFIB similarly denies knowledge.
I'll keep scouting for someone willing to stand up for the mailer. I mean, if it's a constitutional issue and all, why wouldn't they?