by Max Brantley
The shoe drops. This mug shot of Democratic state Treasurer Martha Shoffner appeared on the Pulaski County sheriff's office jail intake page late this afternoon. (She looked a little distracted when I saw her looking over the cottage cheese in a case at Kroger's earlier this week.) Sorry: I originally called her auditor incorrectly. I have many calls out for more information.
Shoffner has been under scrutiny for a variety of issues including charges of favoritism in handling of state investments with a securities firm and also in sloppy reporting and spending of state campaign finance money. She's been subject, too, of a tough legislative audit and Republicans have been calling for her to resign.
UPDATE: I"ve heard from Kimberly Brunell, agent in charge of the Little Rock office of the FBI. She's circumspect:
I can tell you that FBI agents today arrested Martha Shoffner on Hobbs Act charges.
Brunell said there'd be more information at a news conference Monday, probably following Shoffner's appearance in a U.S. magistrate's court. She'll remain jailed until then.
I tried to press Brunell, but she said she couldn't provide details. She did say, in response to my question of whether campaign finance or official conduct figured in the charges, that I should look to the portion of the Hobbs Act that refers to "extortion under color of official rights." Said Brunell: "That was the part she was charged under." Then she said no more.
Here's what you need to know about the Hobbs Act. Excerpt:
In order to show a violation of the Hobbs Act under this provision, the Supreme Court recently held that "the Government need only show that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts."
I guess you could still argue, knowing nothing of the facts underlying this arrest, that this still could pertain to campaign contributions in return for official acts, as well as payments of some sort for investment decisions. Monday should be interesting.
Republicans are popping champagne corks. Justifiably,
UPDATE II: a spokesman for Gov. Beebe says they have no comment. They know nothing beyond press reports.