City Board will decide March 20 on appeal of campaign finance decision | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

City Board will decide March 20 on appeal of campaign finance decision

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 8:23 AM

TO APPEAL OR NOT TO APPEAL: That is the question March 20 for Mayor Mark Stodola and city directors on their so-far losing lawsuit on campaign finance law. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • TO APPEAL OR NOT TO APPEAL: That is the question March 20 for Mayor Mark Stodola and city directors on their so-far losing lawsuit on campaign finance law.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter
distributed a memo to the Little Rock City Board Tuesday night outlining options for the decision against the city by Judge Tim Fox in its effort to shut down exploratory committee fund-raising for city offices.

A city ordinance prohibits fund-raising before July 1. It also prohibits incumbents from carrying over campaign money from previous elections.

The City Board voted to sue over exploratory committees set up by Frank Scott Jr. and Warwick Sabin, both challenging Mayor Mark Stodola. Fox ruled that a state law protecting exploratory committees allowed their fund-raising.  Since then, Russ Racop, a candidate against Ward 6 Director Doris Wright, also has established an exploratory committee.

The city, while opposing exploratory committees, says another state law has invalidated the carryover fund provision that would otherwise apply to Stodola and Wright.

Carpenter's memo doesn't make a recommendation to the board, but the city attorney — who works at the pleasure of the mayor and board — says that he thinks Fox was wrong on several points in the decision.

He sets out the time involved in an appeal, which he also observes would be moot if the Board amended or repealed the ordinance. It could also simply let Fox's decision stand, he notes.

Here's his full memo.

Mayor Mark Stodola
said last night that the City Board would discuss the issue at its meeting March 20.

The choice seems clear to me. Let the Fox ruling stand for this election, rather than have Board incumbents vote their self-interest and appeal. Then, after the election, vote to repeal or amend the ordinance even if that means a change in state legislation.

I understand the good government motivation behind the short money-raising window. It was to discourage the practice of real estate petitioners dropping money in city director hats before key zoning votes year-round.  But as the campaign finance records amply illustrate, the moneyed interests still reward their friends when the time comes. Those favors go overwhelmingly to incumbents, except those who depart from the chamber of commerce playbook. To hamstring challengers while also allowing incumbents to pile up reserves — Mark Stodola's $78,000 dates from an unopposed race in 2014 — encourages special interest politics and discourages challengers. Quit this embarrassing political spectacle now and fix the problem later.



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