by Max Brantley
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s second rejection of a ballot measure that would allow Arkansas residents to vote to clean up their elections and limit the influence of money in state elections is an unnecessary delay for Arkansas citizens, pro-democracy groups said today.
Arkansas Community Organizations, Arkansas Democracy Coalition, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Regnat Populus said they are disappointed that the attorney general once again denied the petition. The groups plan to revise the petition and resubmit it. Rutledge’s objections can be addressed, they said.
“The people of Arkansas deserve the opportunity to vote on these important issues,” said Paul Spencer, director of Regnat Populus. “We intend to respond to the very few points the attorney general has raised and trust that the office will not find any further reasons to block the campaign to put this on the ballot.”
The ballot initiative would take two key actions to diminish the influence of special interest groups and the wealthy, and reassert the public’s voice in state elections.
First, it would increase transparency by requiring outside groups that pay for political advertisements of $2,000 or more to disclose the sources of their campaign contributions electronically within 48 hours of promise of payment.
Second, it would call upon the Arkansas congressional delegation to propose and support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money to influence elections. This constitutional amendment would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, making it the eighth time the Constitution has been amended to overturn a controversial court decision.
In 2014, nearly $68.3 million was spent on the race for Arkansas’ U.S. Senate seat. Of that, $39.8 million was spent by outside groups – those not affiliated with the candidates. The race was among the top five most expensive U.S. Senate races in outside spending.