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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Lawsuits watered with alcohol money

Thursday, November 13, 2008

After receiving the financial report filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission (AEC) by Yota Shaw, some Save Energy Reap Taxes (SERT) members feel the fight to take the wet/dry issue off the November ballot, was fought for the wrong reasons.

A report, obtained from the AEC, shows $13,000 in donations were made in October from Missouri alcohol distributors and businesses to help pay for lawsuits filed to stop the issue from reaching the ballot.

Under the guidance of SERT President Ruth Reynolds, several people worked for months gathering petition signatures in an attempt to give Sharp County residents the opportunity to vote in the November elections on whether to make Sharp County wet. To many voter's disbelief, it only took three days in court to undo the many hours spent collecting thousands of signatures.

There were several arguments back and forth on the wet/dry issue. Those who opposed a wet Sharp County said alcohol would raise the crime rate and pose danger to the well kept area.

Among many arguments made by those who wanted to see the question on the ballot was the argument of Missouri gaining revenue Sharp County could be earning.

There were several different rumors and allegations that Missouri liquor companies wanted to keep Sharp County dry so they wouldn't lose income. Many people said Shaw was just a face for court, the liquor companies were really paying for the lawsuit. The rumors are no longer rumors, SERT finally has proof. The report Shaw filed with the AEC contained several large contributions from alcohol distributors throughout Missouri.

It is common practice for groups to receive donations from people who support their purpose, just like a campaign. When such donations are received it is required by law to file a report with the AEC. SERT was acting as a ballot question committee, according to the guidelines of the AEC, because they were trying to put the wet/dry question on the ballot.

AEC requires such a committee to file a report when they receive contributions of $500 or more (at once or accumulatively by the same person). SERT member Stu Freigy said the committee stayed in compliance with this law. Freigy said SERT filed reports as they received donations or contributions from citizens. According to the October report filed by SERT, they received donations from two different people. Both contributors were citizens, one a real estate agent and one a citizen. SERT's total donations received in October were $3,000.

The report contains an itemized expenditure report as well. Kerry Evans of Hardy was paid $270 by SERT for a billboard. According to the report, a $10 postage expense was the only other item listed in October.

The only report with the AEC on Shaw's behalf was in October. In the report Shaw claims the first contribution (over $500) made to the Committee to Oppose Alcohol in Sharp County was donated Oct. 1.

According to the report, on Oct. 1, Luecke Distributing, an Anheuser-Busch distributor, donated $1,500 to Shaw. Pattie Clark, who owns the Beverage Shop (a liquor store) in Thayer, Mo., gave $5,000 Oct. 1. An alcohol distributor out of Rolla, Mo., Grellner Sales, donated on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, an accumulative donation of $5,000. The last contributor in the AEC report was Bluff City Beer Company of Cape Girardeau, Mo., who donated $1,500 on Oct. 14. The total contributions claimed by Shaw were $13,000, all from companies who have interest in Missouri beer and liquor sales.

Dale Simpson and Associates of Richardson, Texas, were paid $3,252 for petition analysis. According to the report, the only other expense paid by Shaw was $225 to Jerry Moser of Melbourne for phone investigating. The expenditures totaled $3,750 leaving $9,250 in donation money.

Shaw marked "Final Report" on the form, but in the expenditure section she has not accounted for David Blair's attorney fees.

Freigy said he assumes this means there will be a revised report filed later. Freigy said he also thinks she has expenditures to file other than her attorney's fees. According to Freigy, SERT was billed $2,000 to obtain a copy of the record of the trial. Freigy said SERT had to have the record for the appeal case and he assumes Shaw had to have the same. Freigy also said he was curious, since the expense wasn't on the report, who paid for the hand writing expert who testified during the trial.

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