Supporters of a measure that would ban corporate contributions to political candidates in Arkansas and ban any lobbyist gifts to legislators were given clearance to begin gathering signatures to place their proposal on the ballot this fall.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified the language of the proposed initiated act by Regnat Populus, a Little Rock-based group formed to support the campaign finance and ethics measure. The group must gather at least 62,507 signatures by July 6 to qualify for the November ballot.
The group’s proposal would ban corporate and union contributions to individual campaigns in Arkansas, making the state’s campaign finance law in line with restrictions on federal candidates. Corporate and union contributions would still be allowed to contribute to political action committees in the state.
The measure would also ban lawmakers accepting gifts of any value from lobbyists. Legislators can currently receive gifts, food or other items valued up to $100 from a lobbyist. The proposed initiated act’s gift prohibition would not ban information materials such as books, reports or calendars.
The proposal also would extend the “cooling off” period before former legislators can become lobbyists from one year to two.
Paul Spencer, the Regnat Populus chairman, said he believed the changes are needed to tighten the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws. Regnat Populus, Latin for “the people rule,” is the Arkansas state motto.
“I think it’s an opportunity to make a very good state a little bit better,” said Spencer, who teaches government at Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys.
Spencer said he hoped the initial approval of the measure will help in fundraising efforts as his group tries to qualify for the November ballot. Spencer said the group will likely have to hire some signature gatherers to help with the effort, and the group said on its website that it has only raised $1,245 so far.
“It’s going to be tough and we fully acknowledge that, but we also believe this is something that is worth working on,” Spencer said.