by Max Brantley
And speaking of the final days:
We got a tip that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was looking into items Mike Huckabee took with him when he vacated the Governor's office and Mansion, as well the question of what legal justification exists for destruction of state property (computer hard drives) by the governor. Our personal list of questions would also include one about the governor's power to remove records kept by the Mansion staff. The Mansion staff is not a part of the governor's office and so its records wouldn't seem to qualify as gubernatorial working papers.
We received this response to our initial question from Gabe Holmstrom, McDaniel's spokesman:
"We are currently researching our obligations and responsibilities in regard to these issues."
Holmstrom answered all followups to that intriguing statement by saying, "At this time I cannot comment any further than my previous statement."
This news likely will put the former governor into persecution mode and "political witch hunt" should pass his lips sooner rather than later.
Let me say this about that. I doubt many people, even Huckabee's detractors, have a great hunger for a Kenneth Starr-style probe. But Huckabee's departure illustrated a problem. Arkansas needs a law that designates the governor's work product as public property, as much as the president's papers are the public's, and provides for their systematic retention, with appropriate attention to privacy concerns.
We certainly need a definitive policy on hard drives, not one invented for the benefit of an outgoing governor.
In the meanwhile: Does current law speak on these issues? May a governor destroy property that remains usable in the name of secrecy? Are goods donated to the governor's office or living quarters the state's property? Or may the governor control how donated items are distributedon leaving office?
A calm, sober review of applicable law might find that, while we might need to improve our laws, everything Huckabee did was legal under current law. Sounds like a reasonable task for the attorney general to pursue. We'll be staying tuned, as they say.