Arkansas State Capitol

Out at the legislature,  Sen. Ricky Hill (R-Cabot) and Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (R-Hermitage) have introduced another cookie-cutter anti-boycott bill, this time to deny state business to any company that is boycotting or refusing to invest in energy, fossil fuels, firearms or ammunition industries.

Once again, into the breach, comes the Arkansas Times.

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Today, we are implementing a new corporate policy to continue our old corporate policy of not investing in the Peabody Coal company, Chevron, Glock or Ammo Inc. Instead, we have decided, in direct contravention of this new law, to put our money in the bank.

The Times was founded almost 49 years ago on a $200 investment from bookstore owner Jim Bell. Over the decades the Times has been able to put thousands of dollars, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars, into the bank.

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Our conservative fiscal policy seems to have nearly crippled the fossil fuels and firearms industries, denying them the capital and resources to grow and prosper. Witness their pleas for protection before a malleable Arkansas legislature.

My night job is working as a tomato farmer in North Pulaski County. I say night job because it’s too damn hot to farm in the day. Try pounding in 800 tomato stakes in 100 degree weather in 100% humidity. Arkansas just came out of its hottest summer in its hottest decade in history. Yet our legislators see fit to punish companies who prefer not to promote with their investments more greenhouse gasses.

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In Little Rock we killed more of our fellow citizens than at any time last year. Yet the legislature sees fit to punish any company that declines to add further financial fuel propelling gun manufacturers.

Who are these guys working for?

I seem to remember that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision declared that money was speech, therefore government could not limit political contributions. Yet the Arkansas legislature purports to instruct us where to invest our money. If speech is money and this law tells me where to put it, it’s running pretty close to a First Amendment ditch.

The Times continues to fight an earlier anti-boycott bill from 2018 when the legislature passed a law to deny state advertising or other business to anyone who refused to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. We aren’t especially interested in boycotting Israel, but we don’t sign pledges from state authorities requiring us to take political positions in return for their advertising. 

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This new anti-boycott law is the spawn of the first, a template promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing bill factory funded by conservative oligarchs and big business. It promotes its agenda to conservative state legislatures at all-expenses-paid, closed-door conflabs at exclusive resorts. This latest anti-fossil fuels boycott legislation was presented at ALEC’s December 2021 junket at a San Diego resort. At it, ALEC “declared war” on “critical energy theory.” Catchy, huh? Our lawmakers jumped on it like spawning crappie and here we are.  

Editor Lindsey Millar asked me if we were going to sue the state to overturn this latest culture war sortie. I told him no, we were stepping back and turning things over to Randy Zook and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. This is clearly an egregious intrusion by big government into the financial affairs of private business. Big business won’t let this stand. Zook and the State Chamber are without a doubt the most effective lobbying outfit in the state. A lifetime ago I worked with Zook to help shut down a bunch of anti-immigrant bills making their way through the Republican legislature. It didn’t look good until Zook made a couple of well-placed phone calls and the white-nativist caucus collapsed like a folding chair.

So I’m not worried. It’s only a matter of time before the evildoers are routed. I await good news from the Chamber.