Rutledge again rejects ethics amendment; sponsor says he'll have to sue to petition | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rutledge again rejects ethics amendment; sponsor says he'll have to sue to petition

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 6:02 PM

LESLIE RUTLEDGE LIKES THIS: This dark monet ad helped elect Leslie Rutledge. That might give you some idea why she's resisting approval of an amendment to require more disclosure by people who buy such ads.
  • LESLIE RUTLEDGE LIKES THIS: This dark monet ad helped elect Leslie Rutledge. That might give you some idea why she's resisting approval of an amendment to require more disclosure by people who buy such ads.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
today again rejected the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to tighten ethics and campaign finance laws for public officials.

But did approve a popular name, with changes, but rejected the ballot title submitted by Little Rock lawyer David Couch, who's working on behalf a so-far-unidentified coalition of people interested in stronger ethics laws.

The opinion also gets ugly about Couch's contention that the statute requiring a response from the attorney general in 10 days means 10 calendar days. Rutledge sniffs that it has always been her  office's interpretation that this means 10 business days, no matter what the plain language of the law might say.

Rutledge DOES NOT want to put this measure on the ballot. It would lead to disclosure of dark money spenders on political campaign, the kind of filthy money that got her elected.

Couch proposed this popular name:

An Amendment to Prohibit Certain Additional Gifts from Lobbyists to Certain Elected and Appointed Officials, Prohibiting Political Action Committees that Accept Contributions From Corporations and Limited Liability Companies from Contributing to Candidates for State and Local Elections, Requiring Disclosure of Sources of Independent Expenditures and Reducing the Amount of Campaign Contributions to Candidates from $2,700 to $1,500 per Election.
Rutledge said a "more grammatically correct" name should be substituted:

An Amendment Prohibiting Certain Additional Gifts from Lobbyists to Certain Elected and Appointed Officials, Prohibiting Political Action Committees that Accept Contributions From Corporations and Limited Liability Companies from Contributing to Candidates for State and Local Elections, Requiring Disclosure of Sources of Independent Expenditures and Reducing the Amount of Campaign Contributions to Candidates from $2,700 to $1,500 per Election. 

This is pretty silly. But more dishonest is the rejection of the ballot title. She says it doesn't tell voters enough about the consequences of the amendment. It tells a ton, perhaps even too much for speedy comprehension. But to gauge her honesty, I remind you how quickly Rutledge approved a proposal to change the law to make it very hard  to sue for malpractice and negligence. That amendment says nothing about bringing an end to punitive damages, though it does just that. It says nothing about how the tiny potential limit on wrongful death non-economic damages differs dramatically from the existing law. But Rutledge LIKES that amendment. Ethics? Not so much.

Here's the ballot title:

An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution prohibiting persons elected or appointed to certain offices from accepting certain gifts from lobbyists, specifically food or drink at a planned activity, payments by regional and national organizations for travel to regional or national conferences, and gifts that are not used and which are returned within thirty (30) days after receipt; removing the ability of the General Assembly to amend Article 19, Section 30 of the Arkansas Constitution; prohibiting political action committees that accept contributions from corporations or limited liability companies from making contributions to candidates for public office; removing the ability of the General Assembly to amend Article 19, Section 28 of the Arkansas Constitution; requiring a person who makes an independent expenditure or covered transfer in the amount of two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) or more in a calendar year to file a report with the secretary of state or county clerk (whichever is appropriate), providing that the report shall include the name of the person, the amount of the independent expenditure or covered transfer, the election to which the independent expenditure pertains and the name of the candidate identified and whether the independent expenditure was made in support or in opposition to the candidate; defining covered transfers, disbursements and independent expenditures; defining independent expenditure to mean an expenditure for a communication clearly identifying a candidate and either advocating the election or defeat of that candidate or being published within 60 days of an election; defining covered transfer to mean a payment of funds designated to be used for independent expenditures, made in response to a solicitation indicating the funds will be used for independent expenditures, or made under other specified circumstances indicating the funds would likely be used for independent expenditures; requiring informational disclaimers on political advertisements; providing that the Arkansas Ethics Commission shall have jurisdiction over independent expenditures and setting criminal and civil penalties for violations; and reducing the maximum amount a candidate for public office can accept from two thousand seven hundred dollars ($2,700.00) to one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500.00)
Rutledge is disingenuous in saying the reference to independent expenditures might lead people to believe there is NO required disclosure on independent expenditures. There's some limited disclosure, but nothing that gets at the individual sources of money to an independent campaign (dark money) nor is there a required declaration about the intent of the ads purchased. Rutledge is working here to protect sewer money, no more or less.

Says Couch:

I'll have to sue her in Supreme Court to force her to do her job. The statute is plain and clear. This court has been clear that you should follow the plain language of a statute. ... To me it's clear she does not want to approve this measure. 
But a lawsuit will go before a Supreme Court larded with justices elected with the help of dark money.

Beginning to think the system is rigged against clean government?

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