by Max Brantley
The graspy Mike Huckabee is gone, but, like a slug, he's left a trail of slime behind.
Little has been said about how he stripped the governor's office of furniture when he left. The Huckabee haul expanded today with this snippet in the Democrat-Gazette coverage of new Gov. Mike Beebe's budget news conference:
At 1: 30 p. m., Beebe discussed the budget during his first news conference in the governor’s conference room in the state Capitol.
Some photographers noticed that the lighting wasn’t as good as when Huckabee held events there.
“The lights and the speakers were removed prior to our arrival,” said Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample. “We were told it was because they were paid for with private funds. I don’t know where that money came from and who took them.”
I know many of you are tired of my discussion of the niceties of the state's toothless ethics laws. But once more:
If the furniture and lights and speakers were Mike Huckabee's to take, that means they were given to him as gifts. If they were loaned to him for his use and reclaimed by the lender, it was still a gift with significant value. Were those gifts reported? And even if those gifts were reported, were those gifts legal? There is a serious question of whether a public servant can accept a gift worth more than $100 given simply by virtue of the office an elected official holds. It was this complication that contributed to the governor's disavowal of his original claim that $70,000 worth of Mansion furniture was given to HIM and not the state, by wealth cotton planter Boe Adams. (This is the furniture that was missing from state inventories of the state's furniture at the Mansion, but which was located, mostly in a carriage house, after Mike Beebe took office and after the Arkansas Times had reported the controversial furniture's absence from the inventories.)
There's been little hunger to go after Huckabee contemporaneously for his ethical blindspots. So I doubt anybody has the stomach now to get to the bottom of Officegate, the sequel to Gimmegate.
But imagine, for a moment, how quickly Mike Huckabee would have called in cameras and begun caterwauling had he found an office stripped of all furnishings, lights and audio speakers when he arrived in office.
UPDATE: This report got us curious. DeCample said the Huckabee administration had left behind video and audio recording equipment used for the Huckabee communications department. But new computers were installed in the governor's office, presumably so all Huckabee hard drives could be removed. We hear from other sources that, because some computers around the state were tied into a Huckabee software program, a number of hard drives around the state were replaced to be sure no backtracking through those computers could be done to Huckabee-era data. Working papers, don't you know?