by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee's law-dodging Hope for America PAC (he's using it to raise unregulated soft money, including corporate cash, to explore a 2008 presidential run without following the law governing presidential exploratory committees, which have contribution limits and may not take corporate contributions) has filed its report for the fourth quarter of 2006, which covers his Little Rock fund-raising "gala" in December.
He raised $513,630 in the fourth quarter of 2006, but at least $10,000 was raised before his gala was announced, so put the gala fund-raising right at the $500,00 figure that had been estimated (and don't forget to compare it with Mitt Romney's opening $6.5 million event). That $500,000 is not a net figure, of course. The PAC spent $231,093 in the fourth quarter for all political consultants, travel and fund-raising expenses.
Itemized charges for the gala and other items identified as fund-raising expenses show at least $48,000 spent. One charge was a $3,438 expenditure for fund-raising event materials at Barnes and Noble. You don't suppose, do you, that contributions were used to buy 100 or so copies of the former governor's latest book that were then resold to event attendees? We'd ask, but they won't take our questions. We noted in the Times last week that Huckabee's PAC is selling his latest, "From Hope to Higher Ground," for $29.95 while it's available on Amazon for $13.95.
The good stuff, as ever, is in the list of people making big contributions. (By the way, the low-cost after-party at the Christmas gala featuring the governor's band apparently didn't generate many paying guests. The PAC reported only $670 in contributions of less than $100 during the quarter. If there was a crowd at the dance, attribute it to free tickets passed out to major sponsors of the earlier gala. We weren't there, of course. Our photographer was denied admittance.)
One more thing: About 27 people or entities accounted for roughly $450,000 of the total, At most 100 more people (and several couples were represented in that number) contributed the rest at $500 a head. This doesn't strike fund-raisers I've spoken with as a broad or deep level of support from the hometown crowd.
The heaviest hitters:
$5,000 from Friday, Eldredge and Clark, home to the governor's lawyer, Kevin Crass; from Mark Hammond, an Atlanta mortgage lender; from Don Houseworth, a Blytheville hotel owner; from Ed Ligon, owner of LR's Orbit Valve; from J.E. Regenold, the Armorel planter and an appointee of Huckabee to the Highway Commission; Carl Rosenbaum, a Little Rock highway commissioner; and from Dallas Wood, a Paragould realtor appointed by Huckabee to the ASU Board.
$6,500 from Randall Sims, a Conway banker.
$10,000 from Akin Industries of Monticello, headed by Mike Akin, who was appointed by Huckabee to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and later the UA Board; Harley Caldwell, a Little Rock developer; from Jerry Halsey, developer Bruce Burrow's partner (Burrow is another AEDC appointee and his wife is an Education Board appointee); from M.E. Black Farms of DeWitt; from Murphy Oil; from Madison Murphy, a Huckabee highway commissioner; from Sheffield Nelson, a Huckabee Game and Fish commissioner; from Robert Plaster, a Lebanon, Mo., investor;
$25,000 from Dr. Frederick Joyce of Texarkana; from Mountaire, the North Little Rock poultry processor; and from Lexicon a Little Rock steel company.
$50,000 from McGeorge Contracting, a beneficiary of the Huckabee highway bond program.
$100,000 from Jim Lindsey, a Huckabee appointee to the UA Board of Trustees and de facto athletic boss at Fayetteville, and from the Stephens Group. The latter is the investments holding company controlled by the Witt Stephens side of the Stephens financial empire. Its members include Witt Stephens Jr. and Craig Campbell, both of whom have had appointments to Game and Fish, though only Campbell was a Huckabee appointee.
See a full list of donors here. There's many a political appointee on the list, of course. But fewer bellied up for the $500 gala tickets than you might imagine. I was a little surprised to see how chintzy some Huckabee insiders were. Take Brenda Turner, his chief of staff, and her husband, Terry, an appointee to the Workers Comp Commission, together beneficiaries of state jobs worth a combined $200,000 or so for a good part of Huckabee's 10-year run as governor. Only two $500 tickets? I wouldn't call that tithing.