It became apparent this morning that at least some money would be spent in opposition to Issue 3, a massive corporate welfare proposal to allow the state to pledge unlimited tax money to private projects and to allow local governments to also give money to private business and chamber of commerce lobbyists, a practice that has been ruled unconstitutional currently.
It’s the work of Conduit for Action, a conservative political group led by Joe Maynard and Brenda Vassaur Taylor of Fayetteville. Their past activities have included opposition to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. It outlines its opposition to constitutional amendment Issue 3 here.
Today, Arkansas for Free Enterprise bought a full-page ad in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It primarily is devoted to opposition to Issue 3, but it also expresses opposition to every other amendment and initiated act on the ballot except the one, Issue 2, that allows the governor to retain power when out of state, rather than have it pass to the lieutenant governor. The group is against longer terms for county officials and both medical marijuana proposals as well.
Maynard and Taylor filed paperwork for the committee Thursday but it has not yet made a financial disclosure about money raised and spent.
Conduit has made its opposition to Issue 3 known previously. And, as I’ve said before, while I don’t find myself on Conduit’s side often (maybe never before), they’re on target on this one. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity has also had some critical things to say against Issue 3. It would be better still if AFP would start spending money and phone banking, as they’ve done in past Arkansas political races.
Jobs for Arkansas is the major group pushing the corporate welfare amendment. It is funded heavily by chambers of commerce (many of whom have received tax handouts from local governments over the years). Last month, its big contributors included $25,000 from the Arkansas Economic Development Foundation; $10,000 each from the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Newport Chamber of Commerce; $5,000 each from SWEPCO, the Great River Development Foundation and Southland Racing, and $3,000 from the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce.
The committee reported spending $247,150 on advertising with Heathcott and Associates, leaving a balance of $33,000. I was interested in that expenditure because Gary Heathcott, head of the firm and the ad man for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s election campaign, earlier this year announced his firm had been acquired by CJRW, the major ad and PR firm whose accounts include the state parks and tourism work. I inquired. Heathcott explained:
I am a an outside Consultant for CJRW. They do not get involved with Political Campaigns, but I still do with my personal company, Heathcott Associates. Issue 3 is something that I think is extremely important for our state to become competitive with neighboring states in the areas of economic development.