by Max Brantley
Jason Tolbert, the Republican-oriented creator of The Tolbert Report, interviews Republican Party executive director Chase Dugger about his FOI requests related to state employees Matt Campbell , who created the Blue Hog Report, a Democratic blog.
He takes a dim view of the Republicans' targeting a critical news source.
In addition, it is chilling for any citizen journalist exercising their free speech right in the new media forum of the internet for a political party to single out a voice that criticizes them by scrutinizing their employment records. My fear is this will have a ripple effect that will weaken the overall transparency of our state government, which has made strides in the recent years driven by the emerging vibrant state blogosphere.
I'm with Jason, but it's important to emphasize that the blog work should not be done on state time. Campbell says it has not been, but the question hasn't been completely resolved. I do have to snort at the Republican Party spokesman who told the D-G they merely want to make sure no blogging is being done on state time. They've shown no such interest in holding Secretary of State Mark Martin's staff to the same standard or to standard accounting practice on use of state vehicles. The GOP, too, whines that they're only doing what others have done to the secretary of state. Poor baby. He has a multi-million-dollar budget, a fleet of cars, a press aide who makes nearly $90,000 a year. He can fulfill FOI requests, but has done so grudgingly and, in the early going, withheld information from me about his fancy $54,000 retreat this weekend.
Here's the real untold part of this story. The real fuss about Campbell's blog is a bipartisan exposure of the unconstitutional expense reimbursements paid Arkansas legislators — Democrat and Republican. They have made their displeasure known at the state Supreme Court, which, it happens, just got another year without a pay raise. Keep that in mind when the inevitable lawsuit is filed challenging these phony expense payments, which have allowed legislators like Mark Martin to pile up incomes in the $50,000 range when the Constitution limits pay to about $14,000.
UPDATE: I asked Matt Campbell about comments related to times of posting to his Blue Hog and Facebook accounts. His response:
My blog is written using WordPress, which lets me schedule posts to come up in the future. Typically, I would write stuff at night, but set the posts to come up starting some time the following work day, because that drove more traffic. Anything else was written during lunch on my personal laptop, on a day off, or at some other point when I was not working.
As far as the Facebook account that the D-G referenced this morning, there were four Admins, all of whom posted as Blue Hog Report. It was common for someone else to post the links to my stuff.
Campbell disputes, too, the secretary of state's complaint about his "massive" FOI requests. He said he made five or six. And he said he never withdrew a request after documents were compiled. He said he'd withdrawn one request which Alice Stewart had never acknowledged.
Finally, why did the GOP go after Jeff Woodmansee, a law school librarian, who posted perhaps once a month on Blue Hog. He's never made an FOI request, never done anything that would suggest he did Blue Hog contributions on state time. Maybe because the Campbell FOI came up dry, they decided to harass someone else and intimidate them, too.