As I indicated earlier, the drive for a better ethics law has fallen short. The release:
Little Rock – The Better Ethics Now Committee announced today that the effort to get 62,507 signatures necessary to get the Campaign Finance and Lobbying Act of 2012 on the ballot has fallen short.
Co-chairs Brent Bumpers, Jim Keet and Baker Kurrus offered the following statement:
“Because we began our efforts very late, we knew that gathering the signatures necessary to place the ethics measure on the ballot would be a daunting challenge.
Although we are disappointed in this result, we are gratified and encouraged about the future of ethics reform in Arkansas. We now are certain that meaningful ethics reform is coming, either through direct legislative action or through a future initiated act.
We are especially appreciative of the volunteer efforts that supported this endeavor. Volunteers produced about twice as many signatures as we expected them to be able to obtain in the time allotted. We thank all of the volunteers who donated their time, resources and energy to this effort. It is certain that this type of reform will bear fruit in the future when given the time to succeed.
While this Initiated Act was immensely popular among the masses we were in fact a bit dismayed on occasion by a degree of either apathy or opposition from certain quarters. That was not a factor however in the failure to obtain the needed signatures. The shortfall in the necessary signatures resulted from the lack of performance by the professional canvassing firm which we hired.
The public sentiment expressed during the short period of this campaign shows that ethics reform is not only popular, but ultimately inevitable. Virtually the only criticism of the initiated act was that it did not go far enough, and that it did not apply to more elected officials. The level of public discourse on this issue has been elevated, and we believe ethics reform will and should be an issue in every race this fall and the future as well. We hope that it will be the subject of legislation in the next general session of the legislature. We have learned a great deal from this effort, and we will use what we have learned to press on to reform the legislative and lobbying processes in Arkansas. We are encouraged by the bipartisan nature of our work, and we plan to continue this productive cooperation.
Although the precise timing and final substance of the ethics reforms are not clearly defined now, we believe that the efforts of the last sixty days will be the foundation upon which that change is based. We are certain that the landscape of Arkansas politics will be changed very soon and this issue will be part of that change.”
It’s not clear yet — and may never be — how short the campaign fell. As Marie O’Connell mentioned earlier, the hope was to get 49,000 from the professional canvassing firm. The volunteer effort got 15,000, at least. The paid effort only had about a month to work after money was raised. It’s not clear exactly how many signatures the paid canvassers got. Part of their pay was based on expected performance, which didn’t happen. But, Kurrus noted that, in a compressed time frame, it’s hard to make allowances when signature gathering is falling behind. He said the canvassing firm worked until the end, and was paying canvassers on July 4, but “yesterday it became very problematic.”
Kurrus, who carried petitions himself, said, “The issue is so popular I don’t think it can be tamped down.” He said one of the first items of consideration at the legislature ought to be the trips that legislators take that are financed by corporate interests. He’s disappointed, he said, but “in an odd way, encouraged” by public reaction and all that his group had learned.
Paul Spencer, the Catholic High teacher who founded the effort, distributed this statement: