Proposal would end corporate spending on elections


LITTLE ROCK — The popular name and ballot title of a proposed initiated act that would prohibit corporate spending in Arkansas elections was submitted to the state attorney general for review Thursday.

Submitted by a coalition of groups, including Regnat Populus, which worked with lawmakers during the legislative session to get an election reform measure on the 2014 ballot, the proposal would restrict corporate political expenditures in Arkansas elections.

The measure would also call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution clarifying that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and that Congress and individual states can limit political spending. The amendment would have to be ratified by 38 states.

If Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certifies the name and ballot title, supporters will have until July 7, 2014, to collect 62,507 signatures of registered voters – a number equivalent to 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in 2010 – to place the proposal on the 2014 general election ballot.

David Couch, co-chairman of Regnat Populus, said Thursday the proposal is in response to the 2010 Citizens United case ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said the government cannot restrict independent campaign spending by corporations and labor unions.

“It restricts the ability of a corporation that’s chartered in Arkansas, or does business in Arkansas at the corporate level, from making contributions for political purposes,” he said. “You have the Citizens United case that said (corporations) have free speech, but corporations are birthed by the states, they exist really because the state allows them to be created.”

“So, in an attempt to try and deal with this problem we’re going at the state level to try to restrict what rights (corporations) have because whatever rights they have is whatever the state gives them,” he said.

Along with Regnat Populus, other groups involved in the proposal are Common Cause, Free Speech For People and Public Citizen.

Regnat Populus worked with lawmakers during the legislative session to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot which would ban gifts to elected officials, ban corporate and union contributions to political campaigns and increase the “cooling-off” period between when a lawmaker leaves office and is permitted to start lobbying from one year to two years.

Couch said the proposed constitutional amendment prohibits corporations from contributing directly to political campaigns, while the proposal filed Thursday bans contributions to individuals as well as political campaign groups.