In Bentonville, dark money injects politics in school board race | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In Bentonville, dark money injects politics in school board race

Posted By on Sun, Sep 17, 2017 at 9:58 AM

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Amy Gillespie,
who's challenging incumbent Brent Leas for a seat on the Bentonville School Board, has pledged to run a race for the board based on school issues.

But her past political activism, including in favor of a non-discrimination policy for Bentonville school employees (opposed by Leas), has been made an issue in the race by a shadowy independent group mailing fliers opposing her candidacy.  Two are shown here.

What is the CAAFGBPS? I haven't yet found a registration form for the independent expenditure group that is taking responsibility for these, but I may have been hampered by not knowing what the acronym stands for. When independent groups raise $500 to support or oppose a candidate, they must file reports with the secretary of state. Unfortunately, even when filed, the state law doesn't require disclosure of those who make contributions to such committees. Rep. Clarke Tucker's effort to close that loophole was killed by House Republicans.

Some $8,000 has been raised by the candidates themselves for this race, with Leas — whose Twitter account identifies him as a 'servant of Jesus" — enjoying money from Conservative Arkansas and Gillespie reporting a contribution from Progressive Women of Arkansas.

Some might see an association with, say, the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality a badge of honor. More voters, the CAAGFBPS apparently believes, are likely to disagree.

Glllespie's "liberal" activism has even drawn direct criticism from another school board member, who's endorsed Leas. Closer to the point of the race is Gillespie's criticism of Leas for joining in a surprise vote to spend $2 million on a football stadium following a tax election in which voters were led to believe no football stadium work was in the offing. Gillespie argued that the district has other, greater needs to address. Perhaps football versus classrooms also breaks down as a conservative/liberal fault line.

UPDATE from Gillespie

"I didn't actually ask Tom Cotton about healthcare. I asked him how the RAISE Act, which seeks to limit the number of green cards issued, would effect renewals for those already legally in the country, paying taxes and contributing to our economy. "

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