LITTLE ROCK — A coalition of groups marched and a held news conference Tuesday touting support for a proposed ballot initiative that would toughen disclosure rules and call on Arkansas to join the fight to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

LITTLE ROCK — A coalition of groups marched and a held news conference Tuesday touting support for a proposed ballot initiative that would toughen disclosure rules and call on Arkansas to join the fight to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.


Members of the Arkansas Democracy Coalition marched through downtown Little Rock to the state Capitol, where they assembled on the Capitol steps to address reporters.


Paul Spencer, chairman of the group Regnat Populus, said that when he moved to Arkansas 16 years ago he was impressed at the way candidates established personal connections with voters, but he said the 2010 Citizens United ruling, in which the court said the government could not restrict independent political expenditures, changed the paradigm.


"There’s no link anymore" he said. "It’s whoever can bring the most money in to get on the ballot. That’s a bloody shame, because we were unique in that. We knew who we were voting for."


State Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said he worked on legislation during this year’s session that would have toughened disclosure rules and would have required a candidate who coordinated TV or radio advertising with an outside group to report the ads as in-kind contributions. The legislation failed.


"It’s difficult for me to understand, particularly after all the work we did to amend the bill, how you can be opposed to transparency in the election process," he said.


The groups said they hope Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will certify the wording of a proposed initiated act that would:


—Require uniform quarterly and monthly reporting of independent expenditures through the secretary of state or county clerk.


—Require the disclosure of sponsors of independent expenditure advertisements.


—Expand the definition of a reportable independent expenditure to include a communication that is the functional equivalent of express advocacy for or against a candidate.


—Require disclosure of independent expenditure ads exceeding $2,000.


—Urge Congress to support, and the Arkansas Legislature to ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would, essentially, overturn the Citizens United ruling by declaring that Congress and the states have power to regulate the raising of money by candidates and others to influence elections and would declare that such regulations can distinguish between people and corporations or other artificial entities created by law.


"Since the Citizens United ruling, 16 states have gone on record calling for this constitutional amendment," said John Bonifaz, co-founder and president of Free Speech for People. "Arkansas can be the 17th state to call for this amendment and restore democracy for all."


The group Regnat Populus has submitted four versions of the proposal to the state attorney general’s office. Former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the wording of the first two versions, and Rutledge rejected the third version. Regnat Populus submitted the fourth version on May 11.


Certification would allow the group to begin collecting signatures in support of the measure.


Spencer also told reporters that Regnat Populus is considering proposing a state constitutional amendment to close a loophole in a legislatively referred amendment approved by Arkansas voters last year.


The amendment, which Regnat Populus worked on and supported, bars legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists, including meals — but an exception allows lobbyists to feed legislators at events to which legislative bodies are invited. Many such events have been held since the amendment became law.


"It’s a three-mile wide tunnel that they’re marching parades and floats down through every single day, three times a day, when the chow wagon comes in. So we’re very angry about that," Spencer said.