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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Senate candidate promises ethics reform UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 8:32 AM

A CHALLENGE: From candidate Zac White.
  • A CHALLENGE: From candidate Zac White.
Democratic state Senate candidate Zac White of Heber Springs has pledged, if elected, to introduce ethics legislation similar to that proposed in a recent ballot initiative. He's challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View, who's been among the Republicans clearly cool to stronger ethics laws.

About half of Irvin's campaign contributions come from corporate contributors, which would have been prohibited by the Regnat Populus 2012 initiative. It fell short of ballot qualification on account of a late start on signature gathering.

White got one corporate contribution — from a law firm — early in his campaign. He said he has returned it.

Sen. Irvin? White has challenged you to return your corporate contributions.

Is stronger ethics a useful campaign tool in Arkansas? It's appealing to me. But I confess that it hasn't proven to have much popular resonance over the years.

UPDATE: Irvin fires back, primarily by noting her support for largely toothless ethics legislation passed in 2011; the single corporate contribution that White has returned, and an apparently erroneously misinterpretation by her of a single $4,000 contribution to White from the Cleburne County Democratic Party (legal if for both primary and general, which it was, and White says he also had clearance from Ethics Commission to report it in single payment). She doesn't dwell on her own rich political party contributions or multiple corporate contributions. She also provides a misreading account of a court ruling striking down a Montana campaign finance law that prohibited corporate spending on elections. This law banned indirect spending by corporations, which Citizens United allows. It didn't pertain to direct contributions. It is the law of the 8th U.S. Circuit covering Arkansas that direct corporate contributions may be prohibited in state campaigns as they are in federal campaigns. Such a ban would seriously damage Irvin's corporate-stuffed coffers. Not to mention the thousands she received in ethically dubious contributions from campaign committees of other Republican senators. These contributions are personal use of campaign funds, supposedly prohibited by law.

White's release is on the jump, followed by Irvin's and White's complete rebuttal:

ZAC WHITE NEWS RELEASE

(Heber Springs, Ark.) — Heber Springs resident and local state senate candidate William “Zac” White announced that if he is elected to the State Senate, his first action would be to introduce a sweeping ethics reform bill for elected officials. White said his legislation would closely model the ethics reform ballot initiative championed by the Better Ethics Now Committee, which recently announced it failed to gather enough signatures in time to place the measure on the November ballot.

“We started this grassroots, bipartisan initiative just a little too late,” said White. “If we had another week or so we would have easily obtained the necessary 60,000 signatures to give voters a chance to clean up our state government. Sadly, the voters will not get that chance to vote on the initiative in the fall. They will, however, have the chance to elect leaders who will fight for ethics reform in the state legislature and my very first act as a senator will be to do just that. This is not a partisan issue - it's a necessary first step to open, honest government.”

White is running to represent the people of State Senate District 18, which includes nine north-central Arkansas counties: all of Cleburne, Stone and Searcy; south Baxter and Marion; western Fulton and White; east Van Buren; and, northern Faulkner counties. White, the only state legislative candidate to join the Better Ethics Now Committee, had championed the ethics reform issue, speaking at various public meetings and personally submitting hundreds of signatures he and others gathered himself from voters across his district.

In the spirit of ethics reform, White also said his campaign recently returned his one and only corporate contribution and pledged to continue fighting for ethics reform. He also called on his opponent, State Sen. Melissa Irvin, to do the same. White said his opponent has been "invisible" on this issue because over 50 percent of her campaign contributions have come from corporations, lobbyists and other out-of-state interest groups.

"While I was working on the ground to gather signatures in support of a statewide initiative to clean up government, my opponent, State Sen. Melissa Irvin, continues to collect thousands of dollars from corporations and special interests who want to buy her vote," said White. "Sen. Irvin didn't take a position on this issue one way or the other and didn't lift a finger to help get this measure on the ballot for voters' consideration. Where does she stand on this issue? Once again, when it comes to the important issues facing our state, such as ethics reform, Sen. Irvin continues to be what she always has: invisible."

The ethics reform package advocated by the Better Ethics Now Committee would have allowed voters to decide on campaign finance and lobbying reform for elected officials in the state of Arkansas. Its supporters said the measure would have created greater transparency of campaign finances by banning direct corporate and union contributions to state campaigns; required a two-year removal from office before a legislator could become a lobbyist; and, prohibited lobbyists from providing any gifts to legislators.

White joined the high-profile, statewide and bipartisan effort to place a sweeping ethics reform initiative on the November ballot because he said he believes in open, honest and transparent government. Other members of the Better Ethics Now Committee include former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, former Senator Dale Bumpers, and former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt. Democrats like Governor Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Republicans like U.S. Congressman Tim Griffin also publicly expressed their support for the initiative. Despite failing to obtain the 60,000 signatures for the November ballot, White said the group is currently looking at ways to continue moving forward with this issue.

For more information about Zac White, the Ethics Reform ballot initiative, or how to contact your state officials, White said people can visit his website at www.WhiteForArkansas.com.

MISSY IRVIN NEWS RELEASE

Senator Irvin Stands Committed to Stronger Ethics Reform, Calls on Democratic Opponent To End Hypocrisy

Mountain View, Ark. — Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View today called on her Democratic opponent Zac White to end the partisan attacks and join her in supporting stronger ethics reform.

“My opponent’s hypocrisy does nothing to solve the issue at hand, and that is we need stronger restrictions and separations necessary to protect the integrity of the Legislature and beyond,” said Irvin.

In 2011, Senator Irvin voted for an ethics reform package, now Act 71, which prohibits lawmakers from acting as a registered lobbyist until one year after his/her service in the Legislature has ended. It also requires legislators to be reimbursed for the most cost-efficient mode of travel for out-of-state conferences

“These restrictions were a step in the right direction and lay the groundwork for future reforms in the 2013 legislative session,” said Irvin. “I am for stronger, more comprehensive ethics reform that covers all state offices, requires a two-year cooling off period for lawmakers wishing to become lobbyists and that most importantly is constitutional. The Supreme Court's ruling on Montana's ethics law was quite clear and is an opinion we have to respect moving forward.

“While my opponent continues his partisan attacks, I remain committed to addressing real issues that concern my district like, drought relief for cattle farmers and our rural counties, restoring firefighters to the Forestry Commission and fighting the state implementation of Obama's healthcare law.”

Zac White’s Campaign Finance Record:
FACT: Missy Irvin has followed all campaign finance laws of the state of Arkansas. Her opponent Zac White has not. On his May 2012 campaign finance disclosure, Mr. White accepted a $4,000 campaign donation from the Democratic Party of Cleburne County. It is against state law to accept a donation above $2,000. [EDITOR'S FACT: She's wrong here, as White explains.]

FACT: Zac White claims he does not accept campaign donations from corporations. This is disingenuous. He accepted a corporate contribution from the law firm of Will Bond, the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. He claims to have returned that donation. [FACT: She's wrong here. The contribution was returned.]

FACT: Zac White has received several thousand dollars from the Democratic Party Arkansas, which raises money from corporations and has accepted an over $800,000 donation from Gov. Beebe, which was almost all raised from corporations. [FACT: She's received thousands from her party not to mention probably illegal contributions from campaign funds of other Republican senators.]

FROM ZAC WHITE

It's odd Sen. Irvin decided to speak out on the ethics matter after the fact. Too little too late. I'm glad she supports two thirds of it, but why didn't she say so last week when it could have helped?

We accepted the $4,000 from Cleburne County for the primary and general which is not considered a corporation, it is a nonprofit entity who aims to elect Democrats in the county. We called ethics multiple times who have said it was okay since we hadn't submitted two separate reports (primary & general) simultaneously.

We've returned the only corporate contribution, but Sen. Irvin has not.

Missy is just reaching for thin air here. She is obviously trying to deflect attention away from her extensive contribution list of corporate and out-of-state donors funding her campaign.

The Montana law did not affect our ethics bill as she implies. Sadly, we will not know this November because of the lack of enough signatures. I found it hypocritical of her campaign to say how she is criticizing me for mistakenly going against a Supreme Court ruling (i.e. Montana finance law) while she is trying to overturn the Supreme Court upheld universal health care mandate.

My position on ethics is not partisan, nor was my attack. It is a bipartisan effort after all. Her campaign is trying to make this political for some apparent reason, which strikes me as very odd. That is a fight my campaign is willing to have in a public debate anytime, anywhere.

William "Zac" White
Democratic nominee for State Senate District 18

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