Stay Suspicious (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, May. 14, 2018 12:00 am   2 min read

So-called dark money has again made its presence known in the race for Arkansas Supreme Court, and it’s just as noxious as it was two years ago.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group based in Washington, has bought at least $164,000 in ads critical of state Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson. The same group spent $600,000 two years ago targeting Goodson when she ran for chief justice, a race she lost.

There are legitimate reasons to be critical of Goodson — for example, her acceptance of a $50,000 trip to Italy paid for by a Fayetteville lawyer — but those accused of bad behavior have the right to know the identities of their accusers, and voters should have the right to know who’s willing to spend thousands of dollars to influence an election. The law, however, doesn’t require the nonprofit Judicial Crisis Network to identify its donors, and it doesn’t.

Goodson is being opposed by Kenneth Hixson, a state Court of Appeals judge, and David Sterling, chief counsel for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, in the nonpartisan judicial election. All three candidates have touted their conservative bona fides.

“It’s all in an effort to buy votes and it’s wrong,” Goodson said of the dark money flooding into the Supreme Court race. “It doesn’t belong in any campaign, much less a judicial campaign.”

She is absolutely right about the effort to buy votes: It’s wrong. And if votes can be bought, then justice can as well, and that’s even more corrosive to the public’s confidence in the judicial system, which, despite its flaws, is one of the strongest in the world.

Until lawmakers act to require disclosure of the donors to outside groups seeking to influence elections, voters must remain on guard, stay suspicious and never fail to question the motives of non-Arkansas interests seeking to influence Arkansas elections.

 

 

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