Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
It's about the state Ethics Commission's move to correct a shortcoming I highlighted in the law on disclosure of spending on ballot issue campaigns. I lost the battle but may have won the war on a complaint that the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Conmerce-run campaign for a Little Rock sales tax increase had failed to disclose specific spending in the campaign, instead only reporting payments to a turnkey political management firm.
There's general agreement that the law intended more disclosure; that other states make sure there's more disclosure, and that Arkansas law needs to be improved to require this disclosure. Even a Republican legislative candidate has supported this premise, though given the lack of transparency in other Republican campaign activities, I'll believe that vow if I see it in action.
It's worth a mention that the Little Rock sales tax campaign was not unique, but a representative of the pattern in "issue" campaigns.
Take the fat cat-funded effort to increase the state sales tax, primarily to pay for a four-lane highway construction program.
The Move Arkansas Forward Committee has already spent almost $1 million (raised mostly from the highway construction industry). In its most recent monthly report, it reported spending $323,000. It took four lines to disclose how that money was spent — more than $298,000 in two checks to consultant Craig Douglass and $25,000 in two checks to the Markham Group, another political firm. Fairly opaque, I'd say.
Much as I'd like to see this little crusade bear fruit, time probably would be better spent pushing Arkansas to more disclosure of fund-raising and spending by the "independent" efforts by which billionaires such as the Kochs in their Americans for Prosperity threaten to buy the Arkansas legislature by almost wholly invisible means. It's happening nationwide. If the fat cats are successful, get ready for a long ride. Between Voter ID laws and unlimited secret spending, the chance that the great unwashed could ever improve the rules will be nil. Which is the idea — a thousand-year plutocracy.
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