The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Eric Besson reports that an ethics complaint has been filed saying that the exploratory committee Rep. Warwick Sabin created to prepare for a run for Little Rock mayor was a subterfuge to avoid the city ordinance that doesn’t allow campaign fundraising to begin until five months before the November 2018 election.
City Attorney Tom Carpenter (and perhaps also the state Ethics Commission, where initial complaints are anonymous) is reviewing whether
The issue highlights (and I don’t mean to say it gives a pass to Sabin, a former colleague at the Arkansas Times) the way in which Little Rock city government is rigged.
As I’ve written tirelessly and tiresomely, our bastardized government (manager/mayor) was structured to give control to, for sake of simplicity, the chamber of commerce. It takes a heap of money to run citywide, as the mayor and three at-large members of the 10-member Board must do. As consequence, it’s a rare thing when the candidate favored by the big money crowd doesn’t win those seats. Together with a couple of directors from silk stocking wards, these citywide players control most big city decisions.
An insurgent has only five months to raise money for a citywide race under the city ordinance. (Six, if you count the month after the
This ordinance is a powerful aid to incumbents. See Mayor Mark Stodola,
Sabin has come up with a scheme that he insists is legal to level the playing field, the exploratory committee, which can turn over money to his “real” campaign when June 1 rolls around. The D-G article today doesn’t lay out the details of a solid legal case for Sabin’s approach, but I have some sympathy for those seeking a way around the artificial, pro-incumbent, pro-business lobby restriction that now exists. Perhaps the City Board should change the law to conform with state rules, which allow even judges
a year to raise money. CORRECTION: Judicial candidates may start raising money six months before the first election in May, which is a year before a
Side note: Independent expenditures are fully legal whenever and in any amount. A well-heeled type could, for example, decide to spend some money printing up inner city redeveloper Paul Dodd’s blistering indictment of city code enforcement in the Democrat-Gazette today and mass mail it a few times to city voters, along with a plea for a change in city government or elected leadership. You
I think again of Luke Skrable, the pesky gadfly from Southwest Little Rock, whose years of complaints of city neglect finally became so heated that the city banned him from City Board meetings and all city property, in clear violation of the First Amendment. Even in the face of a federal judge’s ruling that the ban was unconstitutional, the almost three years) of good behavior and THEN it reserves the right to boot him again for ANY violation of city “policy,” including presumably the three-minute time limit for public remarks before the City Board.
You can see where someone might be tempted to devise a subterfuge to be heard in Little Rock.
PS: Coincidentally, my column in this week’s Times is about the race for mayor.