Region 8 News Investigates: bucks behind the booze battle

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Craighead County is in the midst of a booze battle but the local fight doesn't seem local when you look at campaign contributions.

Monies coming in to support the committees in favor of and in opposition of the issue are all from outside Craighead County.

Some are from those hoping to sell alcohol in Craighead County and others are from businesses already selling alcohol outside county lines.

We're getting a first look at campaign contribution reports for the wet/dry issue in Craighead County. The numbers, filed through the Arkansas Ethics Commission, paint an interesting picture of a "local issue".

So far, contributors in favor of bringing alcohol to the county and those opposed to the idea aren't even from Craighead County.

From the get go, "Our Community, Our Dollars" made it clear their major backers were outsiders. WalMart is located in Bentonville, Arkansas and Kum & Go is based out of Iowa.

The grassroots committee in opposition of making Craighead County wet hasn't received local money yet either, though.

"We're more focused on using our local, genuine grassroots support than we are about wowing people on our contribution reports," Local Citizens for Safety and Prosperity Chairman Brian Richardson told Region 8 News.

Richardson's group wants to keep Craighead County dry. He said their focus right now is informing people of what petitioners are trying to get them to sign. He said that effort is paying off.

'It's very clear, the people that we've talked to, like Craighead County the way it is," Richardson said.

It appears those outside Craighead County do too. According to their May financial report, monetary contributions came from just outside county lines. Hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars flowed in from "corporations" and "associations" inside Region 8 but outside of Craighead County.

"We had to have some initial start-up money to help get our message out there," Richardson explained.

That initial start-up money to combat liquor stores came from just that, liquor stores.

In May, four local liquor stores in Greene and Poinsett Counties, contributed over $40,000 to keep Craighead County dry.

"Liquor stores or hard alcohol sales in Craighead County is by far a much more dangerous situation than just having a couple surrounding places where people can go to buy alcohol," Richardson told Region 8 News.

Richardson did tell Region 8 News that Local Citizens for Safety and Prosperity has received plenty of pledges for contributions from Craighead County residents, they just aren't accepting the money until they know they'll need it.

"The minute that this goes to a November election, we will put a very formidable fight and we will be well funded, we have great local support."

The group pushing to get the issue on the ballot received nearly five times the amount of funding that those against it did in May.

WalMart and Kum & Go contributed roughly $208,000 to Our Community, Our Dollars in Craighead County.

Similar petitions are going around in Faulkner and Saline counties as well.

In Craighead County, Our Community, Our Dollars still needs roughly 10,000 signatures form registered voters to get the issue on the November ballot.

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