Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said the ban on accepting any gift from a lobbyist was so absolute, it would forbid a dinner or reception thrown by constituents for their lawmakers. These get-togethers are vital to the legislative process, she said.
“There’s not going to be significant influence on a member by giving us tuna fish on a cracker,” Madison said. “It’s not easy to go to a breakfast, then a lunch, then a reception and then a dinner in a day, but that’s when we get a lot of work done as lawmakers.”
The ban on direct corporate contributions while allowing contributions by political action committees is pointless, Madison said. “Most PACs are just corporations in another name,” she said.
First off, corporations shouldn’t be able to give directly to a candidate. The fact that they can in Arkansas is why the pervasiveness of money in politics is worse here than at the national level, where it’s still pretty bad. There’s going to be a lot of room for more reform down the road, but Regnat Populus is a BIG first step. For someone who’s always been so progressive to say something so asinine is really disappointing.
Now, personally, I could care less if our legislators can be served tuna on crackers or not, and frankly the sense of entitlement Senator Madison is projecting is repugnant. Beyond that, she’s flat out wrong here. From the text of the ballot initiative:
SECTION 3. Arkansas Code Title 21, Chapter 8, Subchapter 3, shall include a new section 21-8-305 as follows:
“(a) Members of the General Assembly shall not solicit or accept any gift from a lobbyist, as defined in Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-402(11), a person acting on behalf of a lobbyist, or a person employing a lobbyist.
(b) For the purposes of this section, “gift” means any payment, entertainment, advance, services, or anything of value, unless consideration of equal or greater value has been given therefor, but does not include:
(1) Informational material such as books, reports, pamphlets, calendars, or periodicals informing a member of the General Assembly regarding his or her official duties, but such informational material shall not include payments for any travel or reimbursement
for any expenses;
(2) Gifts which are not used, and within thirty (30) days after receipt, are returned to the donor;
(3) Gifts from a member of the General Assembly’s spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, parent-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew, niece, aunt, uncle, or first cousin, or the spouse of any of these persons, unless the person is acting as an agent or intermediary for any person not covered by this subdivision;
(4) Lawful campaign contributions; and
(5) Any devise or inheritance.”
LOBBYIST means a person who: (A) Receives income or reimbursement in a combined amount of four hundred dollars ($400) or more in a calendar quarter for lobbying one or more governmental bodies; (B) Expends four hundred dollars ($400) or more in a calendar quarter for lobbying one or more governmental bodies, excluding the cost of personal travel, lodging, meals, or dues; or (C) Expends four hundred dollars ($400) or more in a calendar quarter, including postage, for the express purpose of soliciting others to communicate with any public servant to influence any legislative action or administrative action of one or more governmental bodies unless the communication has been filed with the Secretary of State or the communication has been published in the news media. If the communication is filed with the Secretary of State, the filing shall include the approximate number of recipients;
In other words, if Senator Madison wants to go out and visit her constituents in their homes, providing they’re not lobbyists as defined above, she can still have her tuna fish and crackers. Party on. Not that it matters anyway because she’s freakin’ retiring! By all accounts from NWA Madison, who has actually had a stellar career in public service that she’s now tarnished a little bit with this stupid quote, is done with politics. So why even weigh in with this nonsense? Tuna and crackers, I swear.
This outlier aside, the Democratic Party is rally around Regnat Populus. Mike Beebe’s endorsed it. Bill Halter’s working on getting it passed. Dustin McDaniel’s endorsed it. Will Bond’s endorsed it. Gene Jeffress is for it. Ken Aden’s for it. And now an increasing number of Democratic Candidates for Arkansas House and Senate are for it. The Democratic Party is, overwhelmingly, rallying around this, while Republicans are, despite a few lonely voices, standing in opposition.
Take Senator Bill Pritchard’s statement from the same article:
Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, said the measure could trap some lawmakers whose jobs could be defined as lobbyists before they got elected. “It wasn’t a problem for me because I was retired already, but there are people in the Legislature right now who have jobs that could be defined as being a lobbyist,” he said. “What are you going to do if this law passes? Tell them, ‘We’re sorry, but you have to quit your job?’”
“Rank and file people get us confused with Washington and think we’re being taken to expensive dinners every night,” Pritchard said.
Yeah, because having fewer people voting on their vested financial interests in Little Rock would be such a bad thing…