We've mentioned Mike Beebe's shakedown of big-money interests to get preferred seating at his inaugural ball for "sponsorships" up to $25,000.
He's a piker compared to The Huckster.
We've just been faxed, by a very reliable source, what appears to be the sponsorship solicitation being sent by Gov. Mike Huckabee for the "Christmas gala" fund-raiser for his Hope for America PAC Dec. 16 at the Statehouse Convention Center. The prices:
Level 1 Host -- $100,000 for a table in the front row, 10 tickets, free access to the late night party with the governor's band and kids, four tickets to the thank-you reception, four tickets to the photo line at the thank you reception, four signed copies of the governor's new book ("not available in stores until January"), five additional late-night party tickets, name in program.
Level 2 Host -- $50,000 Includes a table for four, and two tickets to other events, plus two books.
Level 3 Host -- $25,000 Includes four dinner tickets in "reserved area near the front," two books. No photo line.
Level 4 Host -- $10,000 Includes four dinner tickets in "reserved mid-level area", two books.
The cheap seats for non-hosts are $500.
Huckabee's letter acknowledges the sums are large. "I realize we've just come off a grueling election cycle, and while reluctant to ask for so much so soon, timing is everything in politics and I need to show that the key leaders in my home state support my efforts."
Huckabee's letter says: "The proceeds from this event will be the seed money I will use to continue traveling to places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to see if my vision for our Nation resonates with our fellow Americans for 2008. If I continue to receive positive encouragement, I will take steps after I leave office next year to make the most challenging political decision of my life."
Sounds like a vehicle to explore a race for president, doesn't it? It happens that they have rules for federal presidential exploratory committees, but this isn't one. In fact, Huckabee's letter helpfully shared a few of the rules governing a 527 committee like his Hope PAC. It is operated, said his letter, "for the purpose of influencing state and local elections. ...The organization focuses solely on state or local elections."
Doesn't this appear contradictory? Huckabee clearly seems to be contemplating a presidential bid while using a financial vehicle that is supposed to be solely about state and local elections. Oh well. As we've said before, Huckabee has generally viewed rules as theoretical constructs malleable to his particular needs and has generally gotten away with it. We hope folks in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will insist that he talk solely about state and local elections when he visits.
Here's one other interesting rule mentioned in the solicitation : "....no part of the net earnings of the organization will be used for the benefit of, or be distributed to, any director or officer of the corporation, or any other private person except to the extent to which reasonable compensation for services rendered is appropriate in continue of the organization's stated purpose." Do you think the PAC could pay Huckabee for making speeches on the organization's stated aims? Just wondering. After all, he's paid himself before out of a political campaign fund and also through the infamous Action America vehicle, one of his early bits of financial funny business.
Will he rake in the big bucks at the gala? Interesting question. He is a lame duck. His ability to deliver favors any time soon is small. People are tired of politics. Some big backers are reportedly a little tired of Huckabee and his recent gift grabs for his new house haven't made these folks feel more generous. However ... What if he runs and wins? We do know he's not a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy.
Our source also told us the following, which we cannot confirm: The source said Kelly Boyd, the governor's deputy chief of staff and long-time political operator, has been making calls to drum up sponsorships. Our source said he's talked with three people who've been called by Boyd. At least one of them had caller ID and told our source that the Boyd call came from a governor's office phone. Surely not. Those being solicited also told our source that Boyd had reminded them of past favors by the governor. Surely not.
We sought a comment on this report from the governor's press secretary, the friendly Alice Stewart. She hasn't called or written. We also attempted to call Boyd. A person in the office said he was on vacation this week. We left a message and hope he calls. He has a reputation for colorful language. Remember those smoking e-mails in which he referred to legislators as smelly camels?
PS -- Need a copy of the solicitation? Send your name, telephone and fax number.