Thursday, May 19, 2016

Supreme Court dismisses complaint against Rutledge over refusal to approve ethics amendment

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 4:38 PM

click to enlarge DAVID COUCH: Promises to try ethics amendment again in 2018. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • DAVID COUCH: Promises to try ethics amendment again in 2018.
The Arkansas Supreme Court this afternoon speedily granted, without explanation, the state's request for dismissal of David Couch's complaint that Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had refused to approve — or make necessary changes to approve — the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to strengthen the state campaign finance and ethics law.

Couch, who represented a group that hoped to gather signatures on petition, asked for an expedited hearing. The attorney general said in an earlier motion that his proposals had been properly rejected because they were misleading and sufficiently flawed that the attorney general was not required to provide substitute language to make the ballot title acceptable.

Rutledge had said, among others, that Couch didn't sufficiently explain in the title the differences in law his petition would make. Interestingly, she focused in part on "dark money," which was spent copiously to elect Rutledge. She said Couch's amendment might make you think there were no disclosure requirements on dark money. There are some, but they are limited and don't include disclosure of sources of campaign spending by independent gtroups.

This is the state petition the court granted.

In an unsigned order, the Supreme Court denied Couch's request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order and dismissed his petition. Justice Paul Danielson would have granted the petition. 

Couch responded:

What this decision means is that the Attorney General in her sole discretion can decide if a ballot title is misleading and refuse to write a ballot title. A sponsor is then without any remedy if he disagrees. This type of unchecked discretion is dangerous and unconstitutional under the United States Constitution. While today it is Ethics Amendment that has been denied the opportunity to get on the ballot so that the voter of Arkansas can give it a thumbs up or down - tomorrow it may be some other issue or some other Attorney General. This is a very slippery slope.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said:

“The Attorney General takes very seriously her responsibility to certify or reject ballot titles and is pleased with the decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court to dismiss Mr. Couch’s petition. She was confident that Mr. Couch misread the statute. Attorney General Rutledge’s response to Mr. Couch’s ballot title proposal was timely, as has always been the case since she entered office. The ballot title was rejected because it was misleading, and it is important that voters understand proposals on which they are voting. Mr. Couch, of course, may resubmit a revised ballot title.” 
The ruling today has killed the amendment for this cycle. To make the ballot it would have had to be published by June 8 in a newspaper. The attorney general's office has determined it has 10 business days — rather than 10 days as the statute says — to pronounce on ballot sufficiency. That means if Couch wrote and submitted a new proposal by tomorrow, May 20, he'd be hard against deadline to get the amendment to a newspaper for publication.

"We will resubmit it to get it approved for the 2018 ballot, which happens to be the time she'll be up for re-election," Couch said. But he complained that the decision today — though unexplained — runs counter to precedent against unfettered discretion in deciding ballot access. He said if problems continue with attorney general review, he'd consider a federal lawsuit..

Dark money has figured in election races by several members of the Arkansas Supreme Court as well as PAC contributions from funds contributed by corporations, another practice Couch's amendment would have outlawed.

Tags: , , , ,


Speaking of...

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Dexter Suggs resigns as Little Rock school superintendent

    This just in from state Education Department: Today, Commissioner Johnny Key reached an agreement with Dr. Dexter Suggs that resulted in Dr. Suggs’ immediate resignation as superintendent of the Little Rock School District.
    • Apr 21, 2015
  • Saturday's open line

    Got any thoughts? Put them here.
    • May 21, 2016
  • More legal headaches for Dexter Suggs

    Dexter Suggs may have cleared out his office before the workday began today, but he still has lingering legal matters as defendant in lawsuits against him and the state.
    • Apr 21, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation