by Max Brantley
The morning news on the drive for the ethics initiative isn't good (except for clean government foe Lt. Gov. Mark Darrand other Republicans and Kochites who've done the most complaining about clean government). It's not over until it's over this afternoon, but Sen. Gilbert Baker's coming lobbyist job (he was grandfathered in the so-called ethics reform of last legislature) appears safe. This went out last night from Marie O'Connell, who's been one of the leaders in the volunteer Regnat Populus 2012 drive:
Dear Canvassing Friends,
I’m afraid the news is troubling this evening. Despite promises, it looks like our paid canvassing team from Terra Strategies is struggling to reach their goal of 49,000 signatures in order to submit our initiative to the Secretary of State on Friday. I’d encourage those who have cleared their schedules for Friday afternoon to keep them clear, as we’ll plan to convene at Vino’s in Little Rock for afternoon commiseration regardless of the outcome. You'll receive another email at noon. I’d also like to encourage all who pray to do so, and anyone with caches of signatures to bring them forward now. The silver lining on this storm cloud is obvious though; we have built a powerful coalition of passionate, interested people who all believe in this needed reform.
Peace, and you'll hear from us soon,
Marie Mainard O'Connell
Still have petitions? Bring them in. But realistically, if the paid group fell short, the drive will fall short and others in the drive now tell me they expect it to happen because of misleading estimates from the company being paid to help gather signatures. I'd been getting cautious optimism each day the last week, but volunteers say they learned yesterday from Terra Strategies, the paid canvasser, that its representations were short of what the volunteers had been led to expect.
Let's find a silver lining.
A cadre of idealistic, dedicated people — at a minimum — learned a lot and achieved a lot in a very short period of time. (First that gathering 70,000 signatures needs more than a few months.) They could be mobilized again and be better informed. We know from Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's alarum and the grumbling corporate community that corporate Arkansas fears the people and loves how cheap it is to buy the Arkansas legislature.
Dare I say it? If the drive falls short — as I now expect based on comments from others in the drive — might there be elected representatives who'll put their names on the line in the legislature for ethics reform? Let's call the roll in the General Assembly on giving government back to the people.
Said David Couch, a Little Rock lawyer who's been working in the campaign:
Our volunteers did a fantastic job and given another chance to do this and with more time we can get this or any other semi-popular measure on the ballot. The good thing about this effort is that we have established a solid grass roots organization that can be used to hold the General Gssembly accountable to the people. We are not going to let it fade away.
I expect a formal news release shortly. Go to Vino's this evening to commiserate with these idealists. They battled a two-month work period, heat, the Little Rock police at Riverfest and on July 4, reps of the state's largest newspaper to try to petition government to better itself.