by Max Brantley
By Washington standards it's chump change, but it's no less corrupt. I refer to John Brummett's excellent column this morning detailing how Rep. Robbie Wills of Conway is shaking down lobbyist contributions to his a Conway-based PAC working in his behalf as a means of aiding his race to the House speaker, suddenly a position almost as powerful as the governor in the Arkansas scheme of things.
This column raises all sorts of questions about things that need fixing. But it will give you a good indication of why the House legislature squashed ethics reform legislation. They LIKE to be able to take hidden graft. No way should contributions of cash to a PAC spent to enhance a politician's standing be legal, period -- certainly not secret. Slimy stuff.
UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST: I've had a friendly phone call this morning from one of the group of Conwayites who've assembled the PAC to advance their friend Rep. Will's interest (and, not incidentally, those of Conway). I should emphasize that THEY are raising the money, quite admittedly in Wills' interest, and that the money won't go directly into his pocket, but in ways that, yes, work in his interests and in amounts below the reporting threshold. I understood this from the beginning, but should have made it crystal clear that I did and that I still think it's wrong. Full disclosure of all contributions would put some veneer of respectability over the affair, but only a tiny bit. And,, yes, I know others have done it and in ways marginally more odious by raising money from lobbyists after elections were decided. Here, Wills is still in a fight against a representative who effectively serves as an in-House lobbyist for business interests as an industrial developer.