by Max Brantley
Even with its exaggerations and misrepresentations, A$a's closing assault on Mike Beebe for Nick Wilson's crimes at least verges on a legitimate governmental discussion. Mostly heat at this point, rather than light. The latest salvo on the jump.
UPDATE -- AKA HYPOCRISY WATCH: Someone with a better memory reminds us of another flap over objectionable TV ads. It goes something like this. It was 1990. A fellow named Asa Hutchinson was running for attorney general against Winston Bryant. Bryant ran ads about how Hutchinson, as U.S. attorney, had failed miserably to detect international drug and weapons running, money laundering and assorted other crimes at the Mena Airport. He also noted that Hutchinson had received illegal campaign contributions in an earlier race against Dale Bumpers for Senate. Hutchinson went ballistic. He didn't just try to strong-arm TV stations. He sued Bryant for libel as a means to counter-attack. He lost.
HUTCHINSON NEWS RELEASE
Little Rock – Asa Hutchinson, the 2006 Republican nominee for Arkansas Governor, today criticized Democrat Mike Beebe for “strong-arm tactics” in his bid to shut down discussion of Beebe’s failure of leadership on the scandal surrounding disgraced Sen. Nick Wilson, the mastermind of a massive government corruption scheme in Arkansas in the 1990s.
Wilson and other colleagues in the state Senate were convicted of scamming millions of dollars from a state-sponsored children’s fund while Beebe was one of the Senate’s top leaders.
Hutchinson also criticized Beebe for intimidating television stations by demanding that they censor an ad being aired by an independent advocacy group -- even as Beebe himself makes false accusations against Hutchinson in his own campaign ads. At least one Arkansas television station has bent to Beebe’s pressure and legal threats and stopped airing the ad.
“Mike Beebe is trying to airbrush history and censor discussion about his record through strong-arm tactics,” said Hutchinson. “He wants to attack and distort my record, but balks when anyone tries to hold him accountable for his own. The question is, why is Mike Beebe afraid to defend his record?
“On the one hand, he is threatening news stations with lawsuits if they dare talk about his failure of leadership on the Nick Wilson scandal, and on the other he is hypocritically launching new ads falsely attacking me and saying I’m not being truthful about his record,” Hutchinson said. “Once again, he’s trying to have it both ways. Well, let’s have an open debate. I am happy to defend my record against Mike Beebe’s false attacks. Why is he so afraid to defend his own record?”
Hutchinson said he took personal exception to Beebe’s most recent negative ad that accuses him of “lying” about Beebe’s failures to stop Nick Wilson, particularly when the public record is clear.
Hutchinson laid out a timeline of the facts of Beebe’s failures to confront Wilson, and directly disputed Mike Beebe’s new paid television ads:
April 4, 1997
Passage of SB 286, sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee, legislation that set up the scam allowing corrupt senators to bilk a children’s fund of millions of dollars. Mike Beebe votes for the legislation.
April 10, 1997
Gov. Mike Huckabee vetoes the legislation.
April 17, 1997
Mike Beebe joins Nick Wilson, Mike Todd, and others in overriding the Governor’s veto. Legislation becomes law.
April 27, 1999
Nick Wilson is named in a 133-county public corruption indictment.
November 4, 1999
Nick Wilson is convicted in Little Rock of two counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy.
November 16, 1999
Nick Wilson submits his resignation from the Arkansas Senate, effective December 31, 1999.
News and editorial accounts at the time criticized Beebe for failing to take action against Wilson:
"As a legislative leader, Beebe should have blocked the self-enrichment schemes. Instead he fought Gov. Mike Huckabee when he tried to stop them." ("Little Curiosity About CHS Crisis," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/30/1997)
"Mike Beebe, the state senator from Searcy who has just decided not run to run for governor, was asked if the legislature had a responsibility to discipline its own members for ethical violations. Oh, no, not now, he said, that would be 'un-American.' " ("What's Un-American About Ethics," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/9/1997)
“Yet there are things that senators like Mike Beebe could have done to wipe away this all too accurate perception of their institution. They could have censured Nick Wilson as soon as his conflicts of interest came to light--months ago, years ago. They could have tried to throw him out of the senate as soon as he was convicted of tax fraud. But they didn't. Nick Wilson is not the only senator whose actions have reflected badly on the institution. So did the inaction of senators like Mike Beebe and Jay Bradford." ("The Spirit Of Nick Wilson: It's Alive And Well At The Ledge," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/2/2000)
“Mike Beebe had plenty of opportunities to stand up to Nick Wilson, but he refused to take a leadership role,” Hutchinson said. “He opposed Gov. Huckabee’s veto of the scam. He opposed public calls to censure Wilson and his buddies. And he opposed public calls to evict his colleagues after they were convicted. Now, he wants to tout his alleged leadership in the state Senate in his campaign for Governor.
“Where was that leadership when his colleagues were stealing millions? Did he refuse to act because he didn’t want to upset too many of the Good Ole Boys, or what it just a matter of incompetence as his colleagues were stealing millions under his nose?”