- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The sponsor of a ballot measure that would expand the ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials and impose new campaign finance restrictions sued Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Friday for rejecting the wording of his proposal.

Little Rock attorney David Couch asked the state Supreme Court to order Rutledge to approve the wording of his proposed constitutional amendment or to substitute language to address concerns she’s raised in rejecting the measure. Rutledge must approve the proposal’s wording before Couch can begin gathering the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters needed to place it on the November ballot.

“The failure of the Attorney General to perform her statutorily mandated duties and to perform them in the time required by law is violating the petitioner’s constitutional right reserved to him,” Couch’s lawsuit said.

Couch said in his lawsuit he’s running out of time to meet the July 8 deadline to submit signatures, especially since state law also requires he publish a notice statewide about the proposal by June 8.

A spokesman for Rutledge said the attorney general was reviewing Couch’s lawsuit and would respond later. Rutledge has rejected Couch’s proposal three times. Earlier this week, she substituted and approved the popular name for the measure but not the proposal’s wording.

“Your proposal, which is a complex and detailed attempt to amend the constitution, is likely to mislead voters because it uses standard campaign-finance jargon in unusual ways without highlighting this fact for the voter,” she wrote.

Couch’s proposal, if approved by voters, would remove the exemptions from the gift ban for planned events for governmental bodies and travel expenses paid by national or regional organizations. It calls for other new campaign finance restrictions, including a ban on political action committees funded by corporations or limited liability companies. It would also lower the maximum amount a donor can contribute to a candidate from $2,700 to $1,500.

Couch said he planned to ask the Supreme Court to expedite his lawsuit.


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