by Stan Morris
POCAHONTAS, Ark. – A company that operates a business in Randolph County wants to see it go wet while liquor stores in neighboring wet counties want it to remain dry.
Those respective sources are also the primary sources of funding being both the Keep REVENUE in Randolph County, the pro-wet group, and Keep Randolph County Safe, the pro-dry group.
As of May 31, Walmart had donated $56,500 to Keep REVENUE in Randolph County, according to the most recent financial disclosure report filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
In an April 19 Jonesboro Sun report by Stan Morris, pro-wet group organizer Linda Bowlin explained Walmart’s participation as one of local interest.
“Even though it is an international corporation, it is also a state corporation and we’ve had it in our county for over 40 years,” Bowlin said in April. “That’s a lot different than having these out of town liquor stores try to come in here and try to influence our vote so that they can maintain their monopolies on liquor sales. Furthermore, our signature collection is done by paid canvassers that we’ve received corporate help from but also, volunteers. We have volunteers collecting signatures every day and they’re local.”
While Bowlin’s group does have a small number of donations from other locals, the opposition does not. It is entirely funded by Greene County Beer Association in Paragould, which donated $7,000 March 3, and Sportsman’s Liquor at Ravenden, which donated $1,000 on March 21. No other donations have been made in filings made with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
Keep Randolph County Safe’s chairwoman, Amy Rice, has not spoken to the media in the past efforts to reach her.
Walmart commented to the Sun in April. Spokesperson Anne Hatfield said their support was to benefit their customers.
“Our customers are telling us they want the convenience of shopping locally and deserve that choice,” Hatfield explained. “They are frustrated by outdated laws and don’t think it’s right they have to drive outside of the county in order to buy the adult beverage products they want. On behalf of our customers, we are proud to support committees that want to give residents the chance to have their say on the issue.”
If the required signature threshold is met for the wet initiative, and Bowlin anticipates it will be, voters will get to decide the future of the county for the issue in November.
The most recent filing from Keep REVENUE in Randolph County: KeepRevenue2016-06-07
The most recent filing from Keep Randolph County Safe: KeepRandolphCounty2016-04-14