A cohort of around 100 legal professionals and onlookers Thursday spoke against what they see as the emerging presence of dark money in state judicial races. Speakers for the rally at the Capitol characterized the term "dark money" as campaign spending from out-of-state groups that do not reveal the source of their donors or their agendas.
On the steps of the Capitol the Chairman of the Arkansas Bar Association Professional Ethics Committee, Brad Hendricks, did not mince words when speaking to the harm of these groups in judicial elections.
“We have a strong independent judiciary set forth in our Constitution but this 'dark money' can do more to undermine it than anything that could come out of this building behind me or anything that could come out of Congress. It is insidious, it is dangerous, and it really needs to be stopped,” said Hendricks.
Many of those in speaking at the rally referred to over $400,000 worth of television ads run by the PAC Law Enforcement Alliance of America. The ads attack state Supreme Court candidate Tim Cullen for the actions of a client he was ethically obligated to defend.
Hendricks warned the effect of the spending is not overstated.
“This group that is here in Arkansas now went into Texas and basically bought the judiciary. That may be a strong statement to some of you but I think it’s true. I’ve got a message for them: this is not Texas, this is Arkansas so come out of the shadows, identify yourselves, show us where the money’s coming from. If you don’t then get out of Arkansas we don’t want you here,” said Hendricks.
Cullen’s opponent Robin Wynne has said he has no connection with the ads but has not repudiated them or distanced himself. Wynne also declined to comment on the idea of out of state groups with anonymous donors spending money on judicial elections.
Both Cullen and Wynne were invited to the rally at the Capitol, only Cullen attended.