Stung by recent accounts of the latest demonstration of Mike Hucakbee's affection for freebies -- "wedding" registry entries to solicit housewarming gifts for the governor and his wife after he leaves office next month -- Team Huckabee has gone to lawyering again.
Today, the governor's lawyer gets into the technicalities with Stephens Media over how it reported past ethical miscues by the governor. Kevin Crass explains that tighter rules for Mansion expense account spending were not prompted by a lawsuit over the practice and that the lawsuit included testimony explaining away $70,000 in furniture Huckabee had first tried to claim as his own before it became apparent such a gift was illegal.
I am happy to say Crass is right. The rules on Mansion expenses changed not because of the lawsuit but because of Arkansas Times reporting of rampant abuse of the Mansion's $60,000 expense account. The Huckabees used it for dry cleaning, restaurant meals, clothing, a dog house and other personal expenses. Our reporting led to the rule change -- back to a process that had always been followed previously. The account was for Mansion operation, not a tax-free pay enhancement for the occupant.. Our reporting also led to the scramble to clean up appearances on the free furniture.
Today, as in times before, Team Huckabees counts on a legal fog to obscure the fundamental issue: The governor always has his hand out. He won't buy what he can get free. If this means pushing the envelope on the rules to do it, he'll push. It's not unreasonable to wish for a higher standard from a public official than "never been indicted." A blog reader, as a result of the latest story, issued a standard of conduct of public officials for the ages, if not for The Huckster: "Buy your own s***."
PS -- I now see the Democrat-Gazette plunged into Grabfest today with a front-page account gathering an assortment of critical remarks from legislators, Republican and Democrat, and including a rich recitation of the governor's historic penchant for loot. It cites the KTHV poll that had viewers voting 700-65 that the registries were "tacky." How could we have forgotten when he actually sued to strike down the law on gifts to politicians? Imagine if he'd succeeded, given how little it restricts him now. One comment on the story: When legislators think you're tacky ....
Here's the link to copy and paste:
PPS -- Careful readers may notice I'm struggling to find a good moniker for the affair. Grabfest had been taken by the D-G in reference to legislative pork barreling. Giftgate doesn't really sing. Suggestions?