by Max Brantley
Big surprise: wacky Jim Parsons' latest ethics complaint against former Gov. Mike Huckabee was dismissed today by the state Ethics Commission, 4-0. Parsons made a tortured argument that Huckabee had somehow violated a law requiring retention of ballot initiative financial records by destroying computer hard drives that might have contained information about ballot initiatives that Huckabee backed, such as one on highway bonds.
The complaint never made any sense legally. Earlier, Parsons had raised a Freedom of Information Act complaint with the Ethics Commission, which has no jurisdiction over FOI matters. Questions linger about the destruction of state property and of state data that might have been outside that for which Huckabee could assert a "gubernatorial working papers" exemption.(One hard drive was State Police equipment and no court has ever let a governor reach into independent agencies to exert a working papers exception over their information.) But those are questions for others, not the Ethics Commission. They may be unanswerable as to Huckabee, for that matter. But they illustrate severe shortcomings in the law about protection of state property and the public information it might contain. As we've mentioned before, even Texas has a law requiring the archiving of all information amassed by a governor. Here, governors spirit it all away. With appropriate protections for personal information, this can be a valuable trove of information for researchers. We should have such a law here. But legislators, as usual, have smaller fish to fry.