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A coalition of state industry groups established to support a ballot issue that would limit attorney fees and lawsuit damage awards spent more than $100,000 in July and raised nearly as much, according to financial reports filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Wednesday.

The expenditures by the ballot committee Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, which is affiliated with the state Chamber of Commerce, dwarfed the amount spent by groups opposed to Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that also would affect court rules.

The Jobs and Justice Committee spent most of its money -- $75,000 -- with Trace Strategies, a Little Rock consulting firm.

Meanwhile, Protect AR Families, the principal committee opposing Issue 1, spent July stockpiling donations and spending little.

The fight over Issue 1 should be among the most expensive political campaigns in Arkansas this year: Both sides have together raised more than $3 million so far.

In addition to the coffers being readied for an advertising blitz, a lawsuit has been filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking to kick Issue 1 off the ballot. A judge in the case has yet to rule on the matter.

Here's how much various groups campaigning on Issue 1 raised and spent in July:

• Arkansans for Jobs and Justice (For): Raised $94,745; spent $107,930; cash available $1,085,456.

• Protect AR Families (Against): Raised $176,799; spent $18,778; cash available $1,599,772.

• Defending Your Day in Court (Against): Raised $10,361; spent $5,446; cash available $14,837.

• Liberty Defense Network (Against): Raised $250; spent $48,300; cash available $167,147.

Many lawyers, as well as the Arkansas Bar Association, are opposed to Issue 1, especially provisions that will give the Legislature the final rule-making authority over the courts.

Other groups opposing the amendment include patients' advocates and the Arkansas Family Council, which describes the tort caps as placing a value on human life.

Carl Vogelpohl, the campaign manager for Arkansans for Jobs and Justice said in a statement Wednesday that those fears are overblown.

"Farmers, doctors, and job creators have joined together to help put Arkansas on a level playing field when competing with neighboring states," Vogelpohl said.

The committee's financial backing comes largely from the state's medical, hospital and trucking associations, as well as other business groups.

Chad Gallagher, a consultant working for the Protect AR Families committee, released his own statement Wednesday that said the "jobs" argument pushed by business groups is undercut by the state's already strong economy.

"Issue One ... will result in the lives of nursing home patients, children, stay-at-home moms and others being viewed as less valuable than others when seeking justice," Gallagher said. "It's just bait and switch when big money insiders say we must have this for jobs."

Metro on 08/16/2018

Print Headline: Tort-issue ally spent $107,930 in month

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Archived Comments

  • JMort69
    August 16, 2018 at 9:20 a.m.

    Of course all the nursing homes, doctors, and big business favor this egregious law. After all, to them, the almighty dollar is more important than life, clearly. And, they have patsies like Bob Ballinger and Trent Garner wholly on their payroll. I find it interesting that they never talk about Section 3 of the proposal. That is the one in which the rules of the court are wrested away from the court and given to our corrupt legislature. So, Ballinger and the others on the take would have the power to decide when and for how much a citizen of Arkansas could sue. They graciously allowed we the people to still have a jury trial, unlike the bill previously introduced by Ballinger on behalf of his overlords in the nursing home industry. But, the crooks in our legislature would have control over the proceedings and how much a jury could award. I don't think I have ever been on the same side of anything with the Family Council. But, in this case, they are right. This proposal says your relative's life is worth $500,000.00, no matter how a doctor or nursing home treats them. This bill is nothing more than greed at its worst. Per our governor and the Chamber of Thieves, our economy is booming. We see the governor bragging almost daily in ads and the press about all the jobs being created, but, that is not enough. Big business needs to suppress the rights of the people even further. The fact is, there will never be enough filthy lucre in the pockets of some business people to make them happy. And, we shouldn't let our corrupt legislature within 50 miles of our court system, much less give them the power to control it. Don't be fooled, if you vote for Issue 1, you are ceding your rights to just compensation. And, if we give the crooks in our legislature the power to determine the rules of the court, who knows what other rights they will take from us. To protect your family, VOTE AGAINST ISSUE 1!

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