The Arkansas Attorney General’s office is considering the wording of campaign finance reform proposal that one grassroots group would like to get on the 2016 general election ballot. The ballot question was submitted Monday.
KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman sat down with the Chairman of Regnat Populus, Paul Spencer, at a bakery in Little Rock and asked him what the proposal seeks to change about elections.
Spencer: As it stands right now it has two main components to it. The first section has to do with disclosure. We saw in the last election cycle a lot of dark money coming into the state from who knows where. It was very difficult to even attach a name to who was donating the money.
With this new measure, it’s similar to something that passed in Massachusetts and California, this discloses the amounts and who the top donors were for a particular campaign or for an independent expenditure committee for advertising and so forth. For example on the advertising, on the commercials, they’d have to disclose the highest donors on TV advertisements. They’d have to make it more understandable as to who the main donors are.
The second component is something that we’ve been working at to instruct our Congressional delegation to support an amendment to the United States Constitution that would undo a lot of the damages from the Citizens United and related rulings.
Kauffman: This seems to build on some of the ethics reform components that voters approved in November. Did that passing help bolster this effort or has this been in the works for a while?
Spencer: This has been in the works since last spring. We were at the point with our other measures and we had been through so many back and forths with the attorney general’s office that it just didn’t seem prudent to pursue it at that time because of the amount of petitions that needed to be gathered and the money. With petition gathering the shorter amount of time you have the higher the costs.
Kauffman: Let’s get into that a little bit. Voters also approved some changes that made it harder to do the petition process itself. What kind of effort do you expect you’ll need to get this on the ballot? What new challenges might you face with the new law in effect?
Spencer: You’re referring to Issue Two. We’re anticipating having to collect a great deal more signatures. Before, for the last election cycle, you needed something around 63,500 valid signatures. You never really get that on the first go around so you rely on what’s called the cure period to collect the balance of the signatures. A lot of the signatures that end up being invalidated are because of a voter not knowing where they’re registered, a lot of innocent reasons. There is some corruption. I will give a nod to that being the case. We did see some corruption in 2012 which was addressed according to the law. I expect it to be a great deal more difficult but not impossible.
Spencer said he expects to receive communication from the Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office on the language of the proposal by December 19. It would not be uncommon for several iterations of the proposal to be submitted before the Attorney General (perhaps incoming AG Leslie Rutledge) approves the language for the petition process to begin.