Reports Shed Light on Backers of Wet, Dry Groups in Arkansas

by Lee Hogan  on Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014 4:12 pm  

Ballot question committees have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on wet-dry county battles across the state as the deadline for signatures and the all-important November election loom.

According to the most recent financial reports filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, ballot question committees on both sides of the wet-dry county debates have spent more than $360,000 from Sept. 1-May 31.

So far, the majority of the money, $259,000, has been spent on canvassers gathering signatures to get the initiatives on the November ballot. In addition, more than $27,000 has been spent on mailing, more than $23,000 on advertising and more than $4,000 on signs and billboards.

According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission website, 13 committees have been formed pertaining to the wet-dry question in Arkansas, with six in support of alcohol sales and seven in opposition.

The groups are active in Sherwood and Jacksonville in Pulaski County, as well as throughout Columbia, Independence, Craighead, Faulkner and Saline counties. Groups seeking to put the wet-dry question before voters have until July 7 to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.

Groups opposed to alcohol sales have been formed in Jacksonville and in Independence, Craighead and Faulkner counties. In Craighead County alone, three opposition committees have been formed.

Sherwood and Columbia County are the only areas without organized groups opposed to alcohol sales.

In Columbia County, the latest numbers from the group Vote for Growth in Columbia County show more than $10,000 in cash on hand. Through May 31, the committee has spent more than $38,000 on canvassing and more than $2,000 on advertising and signs. The committee needs about 6,300 signatures to have the issue on the ballot. 

The latest financial report available through Arkansas Ethics Commission shows Keep Dollars in Sherwood has more than $9,000 in cash on hand, and has spent more than $2,000 on advertisement. It needs about 4,700 signatures to put the question before voters. The group has hired a consulting firm to help with canvassing.

The initiative pertains to the area of Arkansas 107, north of Maryland Avenue. Mary Cobb, the committee president, said the initiative would legalize alcohol sales in restaurants and grocery stores, but would not include liquor stores.

Barry Sellers, the economic development director for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, says the area will develop no matter what, but the passage of this initiative would speed it along.



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