Marching to overturn Citizens United | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marching to overturn Citizens United

Posted By and on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 12:02 PM

click to enlarge LEADING MARCH: Rhana Bazzini and Paul Spencer push for amendment to overturn Citizens United. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • LEADING MARCH: Rhana Bazzini and Paul Spencer push for amendment to overturn Citizens United.

And speaking of cleaner government:

Arkansas and national groups participated in a march this morning to demonstrate support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling by which the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations freedom to spend unlimited amounts on elections.

Leaders of the march where Rhana Bazzini, who's marched 400 miles nationally in support of such an amendment, and Paul Spencer, the director of the local Regnat Populus grassroots good government group.

The groups note that outside groups spent almost $40 million of the $68.3 million spent on the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas in 2014.

The group is still trying for approval of the form of a proposed amendment for Arkansas from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

At a rally on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol following the march, Paul Spencer, chairman of the Regnat Populus ballot question committee, said that when he moved to Arkansas 16 years ago, the state was a place where support for a candidate was often based on a handshake. The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, Spencer said, "changed that whole paradigm." 

"There's no link anymore," Spencer said. "It's whoever can bring the most money in to get on the ballot. That's a bloody shame... The weight of argument has given way to the weight of money." 

Spencer said Regnat Populus has been working with several groups in and out of the state on a ballot measure to be placed before the voters in 2016. First, it would strengthen disclosure laws to more fully reveal where money spent on campaigns and campaign-related ads is coming from. Second, it will call for a 28th amendment to the Constitution that would override Citizens United and get unlimited money out of politics. If the measure passes, Arkansas will be the 17th state in the nation to call for such an amendment. 

Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) told the crowd that he had proposed legislation to make the source of contributions to political campaigns more transparent.

"All it said is that if you are buying hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars worth of television or radio advertisements in Arkansas to influence the outcome of an election, then they people of Arkansas have a right to know who is paying for those ads."

Another piece of legislation he tried to get passed, Tucker said, regulated coordination between a candidate an outside group, and would have changed campaign laws to say that if a candidate personally coordinates with a group in the production of a TV or radio spot, then the cost of production constitutes an in-kind contribution to the campaign. 

"The disclosure piece was basically dead on arrival," Tucker said. "We couldn't even get that out of the House committee." The other piece was more successful, passed off the floor with 56 votes, but fell two votes short in the Senate, even though Tucker amended the bill four times. 

"It's difficult for me to understand, particularly after all the work we did to amend the bill, how you can be opposed to transparency in the election process," Tucker said. "The gaping loopholes we have in Arkansas essentially make a mockery of the campaign finance structure we have, because they make it so easy to work around them. All that's at stake with this issue is the integrity of our democracy." 

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