Little Rock lawyer David Couch, who’s done work in a variety of public interest causes, and Paul Spencer, who organized the Regnat Populus grassroots drive for better ethics laws, have a new idea cooking.
They will take today to the attorney general an initiated act aimed at finding a state law workaround the Citizens United corporate personhood ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Bullet Bob Ballinger and other supporters will surely welcome a state-based solution to wrongheaded federal action, right?)
In short, the initiative would make it a matter of Arkansas corporate charter law that corporations could not spend money to influence elections. Period. The initiative also calls on Arkansas elected officials to push for a U.S.
constitutional amendment to establish that corporations are not human beings.
It adds to corporate charter regulations this key passage:
(1)(A)No corporate entity organized under the laws of this state, nor any corporate entity organized under the laws of any other state, which conducts business in, owns real property in, or performs any other activity in the state of Arkansas, may spend funds to influence any federal, state or local election in Arkansas by: donating to any approved political action committee, as they are defined in A.C.A. § 7-6- 201(1)(A), or to any other person or groups of people who will use those funds to influence an election or public policy, including but not limited to:
a ballot question committee;
a legislative question committee;
a political party;
a county political party committee;
a political action committee; or
an independent expenditure committee;
purchasing any broadcast, print, cable or satellite communication to be disseminated within sixty (60) days of an election which:refers to a clearly identifiable candidate for federal or state office; or refers to a clearly identifiable pending ballot issue.
making any other purchase, expenditure, or donation with the intention of influencing public perception of a clearly identifiable candidate or ballot issue.
The expenditures prohibited in this section do not apply to any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication.
It would hamper legislative fund-raisers a bit, don’t you think?
It’s a long slog just to clear the attorney general’s office. And as Regnat Populus learned before, petition campaigns are devlishly hard, moreso now thanks to recent legislative efforts to make them harder to accomplish. (A lawsuit is in the works on that, by the way.)
Couch said he and Spencer have been working with Common Cause, Public Citizen and Free Speech for People on the issue. We happily join them at the windmill.