by Max Brantley
Lord's Ranch is a residential school for troubled youths in Warm Springs. The website of a preacher who works there says church attendance and similar religious sessions are "encouraged."
Surely church worship is not required, because the Lord's Ranch operates on millions in public tax money -- $8.5 million this year alone from the Arkansas Medicaid program. Courts have ruled that publicly financed programs cannot use public money to conduct religious exercises.
The man who runs the Lord's Ranch, Ted Suhl, has become a major political player, perhaps because the state looked dimly on his operation at times before the Huckabee administration came along. Now "faith-based" organizations are riding high (and so is Huck, in Suhl's twin-engine Cessna jet). Suhl gives contributions freely to politicians in his name, the name of the Lord's Ranch and the name of at least four real estate development companies, one based in Florida.
We've totted up at least $100,000 in donations by Suhl and connections since 2000. That includes $5,000 to Gov. Huckabee (not counting his free jet rides). It includes $26,000 to the Republican Party of Arkansas. It includes $6,500 to the amendment to ban gay marriage.
But here's the most interesting thing, and it may explain why some legislators say they run into a stone wall every time they try to demand accountability from the Lord's Ranch.
The Lord's Ranch is getting $8.5 million in public money from Arkansas this year. This year's spending was budgeted at the legislative session of 2005. That meant elections of 2004 were important to those expecting to have a hand out in 2005.
In that year, Suhl entities gave at least $37,500, split equally between Ds and Rs, to legislative candidates. More individual gifts went to Democrats, but Republicans got bigger amounts on average.
We shall see how tough legislators are on the ranch at the hearing next Wednesday.
One note: The Republicans, big pals of Suhl as you can see, have beem talking about how liberal the Democratic ticket is. If anybody would know a trustworthy conservative, you'd think Bro. Suhl would. He's given money this year to Mike Beebe and Dustin McDaniel (and a heap to loser Tim Wooldridge over the years.)
UPDATE: Go to the jump for a list of all partisan contributions in 2004 and 2006 (Suhl made a couple of contributions to Wendell Griffen, a nonpartisan judicial candidate). Most won, not surprising since most contributions came after the elections. Where contributions appear in excess of the $1,000 limit it's because a candidate got multiple contributions from different Suhl entities and/or they had primary and runoff elections.
Democrats: Ray Kidd ($500); David Cook ($1,000); Jim Luker ($1,000); Mary Anne Salmon ($1,000); Janet Johnson ($2,000); Steve Faris, ($1,500); Barbara Horn ($1,500); Jack Critcher ($2,000); Sue Madison ($1,500); J.R. Rogers ($1,500); Leroy Dangeau ($500); Sandra Prater ($500); Booker Clemons ($250): Jerry Taylor ($1,000); Arnell Willis ($1,000); Jimmy Jeffress, ($1,000); Irma Hunter Brown ($1,000); Phillip Carter ($1,000); Kevin Goss ($500); Dustin McDaniel ($1,000); Dwayne Dobbins ($500).
Republicans: Beverly Pyle ($500); Bill Sample ($500); Denny Altes ($1,000); Daryl Pace ($750); Shawn Womack ($1,500); Stephen Bright ($500); Bill Pritchard ($1,000); Stan Berry ($500); Rodney Harris ($500); Jeremy Hutchinson ($500); Tim Hutchinson ($500); Arkansas Republican Party ($13,000)
Democrats: Greg Reep ($1,500); Dustin McDaniel for atty. gen. ($6,000); Tim Wooldridge for lt. gov. ($6,000); Dawn Creekmore ($1,000); Barbara Horn ($1,000); Denny Sumpter ($500); Mike Beebe for governor ($1,000.
Republicans: Arkansas Republican Party ($5,000).