- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A little more than a month after winning the Republican nomination in a primary fight marked by heavy involvement by outside groups, attorney general candidate Leslie Rutledge said Wednesday she supports requiring more transparency about such organizations’ involvement in state-level campaigns.

Speaking to the Political Animals Club, Rutledge said she’d support requiring outside groups to disclose details about their spending and donors when they campaign for or against candidates.

“We should know who is spending money in Arkansas and trying to affect our elections,” Rutledge told the club, which meets regularly to hear from candidates and other political figures.

Rutledge won the GOP nomination in a runoff election last month, despite the involvement of two out-of-state groups that campaigned for her rival and tried to paint Rutledge as soft on gun rights. Both groups - the Judicial Crisis Network and the American Future Fund - are classified as nonprofits and are allowed by federal law to keep their donors secret.

Rutledge is running against Democratic state Rep. Nate Steel of Nashville in the fall election.

Ads by the Judicial Crisis Network during the primary runoff campaign compared Rutledge to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama for not supporting a “Stand Your Ground” law.

Rutledge cast her victory in the June 10 runoff as a rejection of those attacks.

“I think I’m living proof that Arkansas cannot be bought and it should never be bought by outside interests,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge said she doesn’t plan on pushing for the additional disclosure as part of a legislative package, but said she hoped lawmakers would look at such a change during next year’s session.

Steel said he agrees with Rutledge, and hopes they’ll both speak out if outside groups try similar tactics in the general election.

“I was disturbed by the anonymous outside interests as well and certainly I agree there ought to be some accountability there,” Steel told The Associated Press. “I don’t think we disagree on that point.”

Rutledge also defended her focus on fighting what she’s called federal “overreach,” adding she’s not trying to be a seventh member of the state’s congressional delegation with that pledge.

“We do need an attorney general willing and able to push back,” Rutledge said.

Steel said Rutledge should be focusing more on state issues than fighting the federal government.

“I think it would be a diversion for the attorney general’s office to be focusing on D.C. politics,” he said.

The two are running to succeed Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Steel is slated to speak to the club next month.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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