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