TOAD SUCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Voters in State Senator Jason Rapert's legislative district have likely seen a new billboard demanding the lawmaker's resignation. This billboard has prompted a response from the senator, claiming the group was not "interested in true political discussion."
Arkansas Revolution, the group behind the billboard, raised funds through Change.org in order to place a message they claim will "help communicate more effectively with the senator." Once enough funds were raised, they purchased billboard space on Highway 60 in Toad Suck, just across the Arkansas River Bridge.
The sign depicts the head of Rapert with the word "rejected" stamped on his forehead and the phrase "Rapert, resign" surrounding it. The sign adds the phrase "we deserve better" at the bottom.
"The Arkansas Revolution wants to start a discussion about the behavior of our elected representatives," said Chris Attig in a blog post on their website. "We wanted elected representatives who demonstrate the civility, decency, respect and thoughtfulness we show each other."
But while the group said they want to start a discussion, Rapert claimed that they "aren't interested in true political discussion."
"They just want to tear down conservatives and really pay no attention to civility or the truth," Rapert said in a statement. "I work hard serving the people of Senate District 35 every day. Many of them have contacted me to say they are sorry this outside liberal group has tried to damage my reputation with their sign."
Attig said the group's mission is neither liberal nor conservative, but merely concerned with raising awareness about who Arkansans are represented by in the state government.
"It's not Republicanism or Conservatism that defines [Rapert's] leadership or his policies. What defines his leadership and policies is best described by the nickname that has been used to describe him since his first term in officer: the Bully of Bigelow," Attig said.
In a Facebook Live posted Wednesday, Rapert claimed he never got a phone call or message from the group before the billboard went up. In the video and statement provided to THV11, Rapert called the group a "radical liberal extremist group" that is comprised of people outside of the district he serves. He also said Arkansas Revolution associates with "antifa" groups, which are anti-fascist groups that oppose fascist policies and ideologies.
"Everyone is entitled to free speech, but there are some sad cases like this one where they go over the line without any basis," he said.
Rapert's claims that the group may have violated an Arkansas ethics law. His compliant alleges that the "self avowed" political action committee (PAC) spent funds on a political message without being properly registered as a PAC.
Arkansas Code §7-6-215 states that to qualify as a PAC, a group has to register with the Secretary of State within 15 days after accepting contributions that may exceed $500 in a calendar year.
In response to that claim, Attig said Arkansas Revolution is not an Arkansas PAC subject to that rule, but he would conduct "an internal review of all our state and federal filings."
Rapert claimed legal action can be taken if the group has violated an ethics law, but did not clarify if he will seek such an action. The state senator added that the group has targeted him with "personal attacks and defamatory messaging" because of his decision to uphold "Arkansas values."
You can read State Senator Rapert's full statement below:
"I am honored to have been elected three times by voters to serve in the Arkansas Senate. My conservative policy positions and dedication to standing up for God and country are well publicized - this sometimes causes radical liberal extremist groups to lash out at me on a regular basis. Everyone is entitled to free speech, but there are some sad cases like this one where they go over the line without any basis. I am advised that a liberal activist attorney by the name of Chris Attig from outside of my district is publicly affiliated with a new radical group using the name "Arkansas Revolution Action Committee" and they are the ones responsible for the billboard. I have also been advised that it appears they have violated Arkansas ethics laws by spending funds as a self avowed PAC for a political message without being properly registered as a PAC in our state. This is a liberal group that wants to lash out at me for upholding Arkansas values using personal attacks and defamatory messaging while doing so. I am not surprised if they have violated ethics laws in doing so because they aren't interested in true political discussion, they just want to tear down conservatives and really pay no attention to civility or the truth. I work hard serving the people of Senate District 35 every day and many of them have contacted me to say they are sorry this outside liberal group has tried to damage my reputation with their sign. I have actually received many donations to support my re-election campaign as a result of their billboard. I will continue to stand up for Arkansas values and conservative principles - I have never allowed intimidation to deter me from doing what is right and I do not intend to do so now. We appreciate all the support coming in at www.jasonrapertforsenate.com - I am grateful."