Badly needing a change of subject from his poor tax bookkeeping, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet held a news conference this morning to talk about the state car fleet and announce a planned lawsuit over car use. The suit will claim cars have been provided for constitutional officers in violation of Amendment 70. The amendment stripped elected officials of their public relations account and limited compensation to statutorily fixed salaries. I think they have a legal leg to stand on. Doyle Webb, the GOP chairman, would have carried a bit more credibility had he raised this during the Huckabee era, particularly before Tom Mars dreamed up the security detail ruse to cover all manner of Huckabee family transportation and taxpayer-supported services.
Gerard Matthews was there. We provided a livestream from his cell phone. You can watch part one of the press conference here. The second video includes Keet and Webb's responses to reporters' questions. More on the jump.
But, first a zinger from the Beebe campaign about Keet's effort to bring up the days four years ago when Beebe had a car as attorney general, but paid tax on the benefit:
Governor Beebe paid his taxes when no one was looking, unlike Mr. Keet who doesn't pay his taxes and blames everyone else for his troubles.
Webb said the Republican Party planned to file the suit in Pulaski County court sometime next week and that it would name all the constitutional officers in the state, including Gov. Beebe in his capacity as former attorney general. When asked exactly what relief the GOP was seeking in the suit, Webb said, "That amendment 70 be enforced, that our constitutional officers not receive any additional salary or expenses that are above the const set salaries that are in that amendment. If the personal use of a vehicle is a benefit, a salary or expense, they should stop using those vehicles for that purpose. They should cease and desist or be removed from office."
After the press conference, Webb was asked if their research reached into previous administrations and if former constitutional officers would be held accountable.
"We’re going to focus on the constitutional officers who are in office today," Webb said. "Those are the proper defendants for litigation. Whether it falls over into past administrations, so be it. What we hope it will be is a guide for those in office today and those who are elected to serve in constitutional offices in the future."
That seemingly contradicted his statement that Gov. Beebe was included in the suit for use of vehicles during his time as attorney general. Webb said the governor was included because he is the "head of government."