Regnat Populus, the citizens group whose 2012 ethics initiative led to the passage of a voter-approved ethics amendment last Tuesday, is one of three groups forming the Arkansas Democracy Coalition to try to pass campaign finance reform.
The coalition was announced in an email Tuesday night by Paul Spencer, the co-chair of Regnat Populus. Other charter members of the coalition are Arkansas Community Organization and Arkansas Interfaith Alliance. The group’s website can be accessed here.
The announcement said that the group’s mission is “to draw together as many grass roots, state-wide, and national groups as possible to work towards regaining control over campaign finance spending, eliminating the mistaken idea of corporate personhood and undoing the damage to our electoral system this mistaken idea has wrought.”
It said its efforts would include passing initiatives and referenda, engaging in political activities, legal action, and advocacy.
The announcement said the effort is needed because “Elected representatives are no longer responsive to the needs of their constituents; rather they are beholden to the ‘donor class’ of oligarchs and plutocrats and must cater to these interests to retain their seats.”
The coalition’s first event will be a presentation by Jeff Clements, author of “Corporations Are NOT People” and co-founder of Free Speech for People, a national campaign finance group. Clements will speak at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Clinton School of Public Service.
Regnat Populus along with the group Occupy Little Rock originally attempted to pass an ethics ballot initiative in 2012, but fell short of collecting the required number of voter signatures. In response, legislators placed before the voters Issue 3, which among other provisions prohibits gifts of any kind from lobbyists to legislators. The provision went into effect immediately after voters passed Issue 3 last Tuesday.
Issue 3 also creates an independent commission to determine legislators’ salaries and requires legislators to wait two years after leaving office before they can register as lobbyists.
It also extended term limits for legislators from two three-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate to 16 years total in either or both chambers. The ballot title said only that the amendment would set term limits. Spencer’s announcement criticized that language.
“This misleading title caused a great deal of understandable outrage from Term Limits advocates who launched a massive campaign against the measure,” the announcement said. “Although term limits issues may continue to be fought out in the next election cycle with future measures, we are confident that the gains in ethics laws are here to stay.”