by Max Brantley
Thanks to a blog reader who chastised me the other day. He complained that I'd said nothing about the fact that Gov. Mike Beebe's annual statement of financial interest was not posted on the web.
I ignored the comment at the time, presuming that the secretary of state's office was behind on getting SFIs posted on-line. I also had noticed that the office has begun the process of on-line filing of certain financial reports, which should mean speedier access to these reports eventually. Perhaps, I thought, the absence of the SFI was part of a coming changeover.
I knew Beebe had filed his report. I'd picked one up at the Capitol months ago. I also knew that Mike Huckabee's SFI filed at the end of Jnauary 2007 was not on-line, so any recordkeeping shortcoming by the secretary of state was bipartisan.
Finally a light bulb went off. I began checking other public officials. No SFIs for any of them, including my wife, are on file for calendar 2006. Those reports were filed by Jan. 31, 2007.
I inquired. An employee of the secretary of state confirmed that SFIs are no longer being posted on the website. I asked for an explanation and was referred to another office employee. So far, no answer has been forthcoming. This looks very suspicious. These reports have been made available on-line for years. What possible explanation could exist for the change except a bad one?
It's probably worth repeating that Arkansas statements of financial interest disclose little, are often filled out improperly and precious little official oversight exists. Still.
UPDATE: Explanation from the secretary of state. I'm not sure I'm buying. And a "selection" of reports? Every public filing should be available on-line. Admittedly, it will become easier when everyone files electronically. Now that is merely an option.
We did previously post a selection of the Statements of Financial Interests on our website to allow for greater access to the reports; however, in our conversion this year to a new internal database which allows for the online filing of C&E’s [campaign contribution and expenditure reports], we gave precedence to posting the PAC, Lobbyist, and C&E reports online first.
We will be posting a similar selection of SFI’s online in the near future. So you know, we have received complaints from Judges and Prosecuting Attorneys in the past because these reports list home addresses. We will likely exclude them from our future posting for that reason. In the meantime, all SFI’s are available via email upon request from our Election Division (682-5070).