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Arkansas Has a Corruption Problem

From a long list of supposed public servants in our state who have gone to jail to the current abuses we’re seeing by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it’s clear we have to do something to clean up our state government.


So here’s my plan for how we clean this mess up. 


It won’t all get done in one term, but my promise to the people of District 32 is to keep pushing until we make our government of, by, and for the people and not just for those who can buy it.


 

Revoke Public Official Pensions for Corruption

In Arkansas, we don’t have enough penalties to make those in power think twice about corruption.  In fact, right now, murder is the only crime that will lead to the revocation of a public servant’s state pension.  I’ll push for changes to the law so that a public servant who is convicted on corruption related charges loses their state pension.  Besides the fact that the people of Arkansas shouldn’t have to pay for a crook’s retirement, it will give politicians a reason to think twice before doing wrong.



Strengthen the Arkansas Ethics Commission

Our state’s ethics commission is under-resourced and lacks significant ability to address unethical behavior and corruption in our government.  The commission should have a specifically allocated budget providing for an adequate staff and resources.  It should also be given the authority to audit all campaign finance reports & asset disclosure forms, rather than depending on others to file ethics complaints, and the commission should publish an annual report on all formal investigations, advisory opinions, and activities so Arkansans can stay informed about what goes on in our government.



Expand Transparency & Strengthen Campaign Finance Limits

In recent years, our state legislature has worked tirelessly to erode transparency and make it so politicians can take in more money from the wealthy contributors buying them.  Increasingly, Arkansans are left in the dark about who is buying our elections and who is influencing the people that are supposed to be working for us.  It’s time for that to stop.


First, we should make it law that any organization engaging in any political activity must fully disclose who its donors are and have that information publicly available online.  Then, we should start restoring the contribution limits that have been eroded and expand them.  For example, organizations running campaigns to pass measures at the ballot should be subject to the same contribution limits as candidates for office.



Extend the Time Limit Before Former Officials May Become Lobbyists

We all know there’s a revolving door in government.  People get elected, serve a bit, then go into lobbying their former colleagues for more money.  The problem has led to the creation of limits on when ex-politicians can become lobbyists in hopes of reducing their influence on their former colleagues.  In Arkansas though, that period is only a year.  I’ll push for legislation to extend the limit from one year to six, which would tie Arkansas for the longest cooling off period in the country.



Lobbying Reform

Lobbying is a major force in our government and has become a lucrative business that leads to well financed interests wielding too much power and influence in our democracy, especially in our state legislature.  It’s time for reform.


First, we should strengthen the definition of “lobbyist” under state law.  Currently, loopholes exist that enable some individuals who lobby to avoid having to register as actual lobbyists.  A stronger legal definition will change that and take their work out of the shadows so ordinary Arkansans can see what they’re up to.


An even more significant change will be requiring the employers/principals who hire lobbyists to report their lobbyists’ salaries/compensation to the Arkansas Ethics Commission.  Such reports would then be made publicly available and subject to audit by the commission.

 


Tighten the Gift Ban

While voters banned legislators from taking gifts and meals from lobbyists, lobbyists still manage to get around the ban by holding large parties, buffets, and other events which they invite multiple legislators to under the exception for “planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited”.  While a simple lunch is reasonable, I think most of us can agree that expensive dinners and parties are excessive and ought to be subject to disclosure requirements and dollar amount limits to provide greater transparency and reduce the influence of wealthy and powerful interests on our government.



Support Clean, Publicly Funded, Elections

Unfortunately, it takes money to run elections.  To an extent, raising money for a campaign is reasonable, but the problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that money equals speech and the more money someone has the more “speech”- or rather, the more ability to buy a politician- they’re allowed.  This has given the wealthy few an unfair ability to influence our government over ordinary people who don’t have as much money to give, and it’s destroying our democracy.


States like Arizona and Maine have been working to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics by passing Clean Election Acts.  A Clean Elections Act would create an optional system of public financing.  It’s not a perfect solution because, under our Supreme Court’s rulings, such a system has to be optional.  But with clean elections, ordinary Arkansans will be guaranteed at least some candidates that answer only to them and not just to big donors, and aspiring public servants who want to make sure that regular people have representation will be able to compete with the influence of wealthy donors.

 


Reform Public Procurement

The scandals of the Huckabee Sanders Administration-from Lecturngate to the “LEARNS” voucher contracts-have brought the need for new procurement rules to light.  Arkansas needs regular, mandatory professional training for all public procurement officials.  Companies guilty of major procurement violations like bribery should be banned from participating in any future bids, and all procurement regulations, information on and results of bids should be available to the public in the easiest to access manner possible.



Shine Light on Corporate Welfare

Arkansas gives an enormous amount of corporate welfare away to big businesses, mostly in the forms of various tax reductions.  These giveaways are supposed to create jobs but there is very little transparency in how much economic benefit Arkansans get from them, how much revenue is lost to them, or the details of tax giveaways and subsidies to individual companies.  The state needs to evaluate the effectiveness of each so-called economic development subsidy, provide detailed public transparency, and eliminate those handouts to big businesses that aren’t working or which are being abused.

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