Arkansas Approves Ballot Initiative to Let Voters Decide on Citizens United

Arkansas Community Organizations * Arkansas Democracy Coalition* Common Cause * Free Speech for People * People For the American Way * Public Citizen * Regnat Populus

June 11, 2015

Pro-Democracy Groups Celebrate Attorney General Approval of Ballot Initiative to Clean Up Elections

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge Approves Language for Ballot Measure; Groups to Begin Gathering Signatures

LITTLE ROCK – A coalition of public interest groups today celebrated State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s approval of language for a ballot measure that would allow Arkansas voters to limit the influence of money in state elections.

The groups began laying plans to gather signatures to ensure the measure is put to voters.

Arkansas Community Organizations, Arkansas Democracy Coalition, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Regnat Populus – local and national groups spearheading the effort for the ballot measure – can now start collecting the 67,887 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot in 2016. The threshold number represents eight percent of the people who voted in the gubernatorial election last year.

The ballot initiative calls for two key actions to diminish the influence of special interest groups and the wealthy, and reassert the public’s voice in state elections.

First, it would increase transparency by requiring outside groups that pay for political advertisements of $2,000 or more to disclose the sources of their campaign contributions electronically within 48 hours of promise of payment.

Second, it would call upon the Arkansas congressional delegation to propose and support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money to influence elections. This constitutional amendment would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, making it the eighth time the Constitution has been amended to overturn a controversial court decision. That 2010 decision gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections.

In 2014, nearly $68.3 million was spent on the race for Arkansas’ U.S. Senate seat. Of that, $39.8 million was spent by outside groups – those not affiliated with the candidates. The race was among the top five most expensive U.S. Senate races in outside spending.

Momentum for change is strong. On May 19, a slew of citizens marched to the state Capitol to show support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Previous attempts to place an initiative on the ballot have been rejected by the state attorney general, but organizers are pleased the initiative has overcome a key hurdle that allows the public a chance to take back their elections.

 

To read the full Attorney General opinion, click here.

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