U.S. Term Limits of Palm Beach, Fla, is spending about $400,000 on television advertisements urging voters to cast their ballots against Issue 3, term-limits supporters said Tuesday.
Tim Jacob of Little Rock, co-chairman of Arkansas Term Limits, said the ads will be running now through the Nov. 4 general election.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which was placed on the ballot by the state Legislature, has been promoted by its supporters as an ethics initiative, but it's actually an attempt to undermine term limits, Jacob said.
Nick Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, said Issue 3 "probably is the most deceptive ballot title we have seen.
"We thought it could be passed by mistake if there wasn't a major effort to educate voters," he said in a telephone interview.
U.S. Term Limits describes itself on its website as the leader of the largest grass-roots movement in American history.
Among other things, the ballot title for Issue 3 says it would be "establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly."
But it weakens the current term-limits law, Jacob said.
Issue 3 would increase the length of time that lawmakers would be allowed to serve to a maximum of 16 years in the state House of Representatives, the state Senate or a combination of terms in both.
Lawmakers are currently limited to six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Some senators are able to serve 10 years, if they draw a two-year term after winning in the election after once-per-decade redistricting.
Issue 3 also would ban gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and state constitutional officers, prohibit direct political contributions from corporations and unions, and delay lawmakers' eligibility to register as lobbyists until two years after their terms have ended. The current waiting period is one year. Issue 3 also would create an independent citizens commission to set salaries for lawmakers and other elected officials.
At a news conference in Little Rock, Jacob said the Legislature "has pursued a campaign of silence and deception" in regard to Issue 3.
"They are letting the deceptive ballot title do their work, and when Arkansas voters go to the polls there will be no mention of the doubling of term limits," he said in announcing the television ad campaign against Issue 3.
"We believe voters have a right to know what's in it," Jacob said.
State Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, who sponsored a resolution for the proposed constitutional amendment along with state Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, said Tuesday night that the Arkansas Term Limits ad is extremely misleading in suggesting lawmakers are being deceptive.
"I think the majority of Arkansans know that we already have the strictest term limits in the country, and it's putting lawmakers at a disadvantage with the lobbyists and bureaucrats," he said.
"I think people are going to see through the misleading commercials, and I think people are tired of the negative campaigning and all the negative ads, and I think it will all be a wash," said Woods.
He said he's disappointed with the Arkansas Term Limits advertisement.
"We tried to put together the best ethics package we could, and this was a compromise and bipartisanship at its best," he said.
"There are parts of it not all of us are excited about it, and there are a lot of lawmakers that would love to see it fail because they still want to get gifts [from lobbyists]. If people actually believe the negative ads and it gets voted down, there will be a lot of lawmakers extremely happy that they would still get their lunches and dinners paid for by lobbyists," said Woods, who has served in the Senate since 2013 and was in the House from 2007-13.
"Everybody knows that we have term limits in the state already," he said.
Asked whether the ballot title is misleading in saying that the measure would be "establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly," Woods said he doesn't know.
"I think when you get to a ballot measure, you have to consolidate [wording on the ballot title] and you can't go on and on and on," he said. "I think if we were to go back and reword it, they would still fight it."
David Couch of Little Rock, a spokesman for the Better Ethics Now group that supports Issue 3, said the group decided not to spend money promoting the measure after the state Republican Party declared its opposition in July to Issue 3, even though Republican lawmakers were the ones who pushed to include the revision of term limits in the proposed constitutional amendment.
"We just felt like they didn't hold up their end of the bargain," said Couch.
On July 19, the Republican Party at its state convention of more than 350 delegates approved a resolution opposing Issue 3 because of the term-limits provision.
Regarding the Better Ethics Now group, Woods said "it is probably just wise to save your money.
"We are three weeks away from the election. I think people are going to see through [the ad from Arkansas Term Limits]," he said.
"We got some individuals in the Republican Party that passed a resolution on a Saturday when everyone else was with their family, and it does not reflect the entire Republican Party. It does not reflect all Republicans. You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas."
Woods said he's not sure who drafted the Republican Party resolution opposing Issue 3.
A section on 10/15/2014