by Max Brantley
John Brummett skewers the Arkansas Republican Party today for its supposed fiscal interest in going after Matt Campbell, creator of the Blue Hog Report, for the so-far unsupported belief that he might have posted some blog items during state time as an employee of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
If the Republicans REALLY cared about money, they'd talk about Secretary of State Mark Martin's shoddy bookkeeping, his expensive staff retreat, his misuse of Board of Apportionment money, his own employees' political activities on state time.
No, Brummett concludes, this was a plan — successful given that Campbell shut BHR down — to silence an effective critical voice, one whose biggest contribution to good government was a bright light on unconstitutional expense reimbursements to legislators, a bipartisan scandal. He writes:
What needs to happen is that, first, any conceivably justifiable concerns that either of these bloggers abused state time or equipment — not that any evidence exists at this point — needs to be addressed by their employers as personnel matters, and, second, Campbell must get his bluehogreport.com back online so that he can give the Republicans more of the hell they now deserve more than ever.
He tells me he is using this down-time to “retool” and design a long-term blogging strategy.
Perhaps he is over-thinking. After all, he seems to have been doing fine. And now the Blue Hog can officially tout himself as the blog the state Republican Party doesn’t want you to see.
Campbell has said he was also concerned about the Republican grief brought down on a friend, Jeff Woodmansee, who's contributed a few times to Blue Hog and who works in the law library at UALR, now trying to comply with a massive FOI request for their librarian's records.
Woodmansee sent me a note the other day that he now says I may use relative to his involvement. CORRECTION: I made a mistake and used an earlier draft not intended for publication rather than a subsequent note that was intended for publication. It is essentially the same, that he doesn't fear the document request, but regrets the trouble it has caused others:
First off, I stand 100% behind my friend Matt and what the blog I helped him launch last spring stood for. For me, it's the very practical aspects of this whole episode that have been most upsetting. Though I knew that the sort of explosive investigative writing Matt became known for could make him — and me — a target, there wasn't much to prevent what happened from my end, apparently. While launching the blog with Matt during last year’s campaign cycle and writing entries about some of those races — particularly the campaigns of Democrats Halter, O’Brien, and LJ Bryant — as well as some general takes on national stories, I had become an infrequent contributor by the fall because I resumed my graduate course work (to go with my job at Bowen and two toddlers) and simply lacked the time during my evenings to write. By spring, I maybe contributed one post per month, and certainly nothing too controversial. Though still checking in with Matt about the blog and offering occasional ideas, I became quite concerned that the sort of exposing of the GOP he was doing may lead to some sort of retaliation and had definitely distanced myself from things. In fact, this is exactly how the narrative has played out in the media thus far — the ARGOP has talked about how angry they are at Matt regarding Blue Hog Report, never really accused me of any wrongdoing at all, yet have subjected me and my place of work to this scrutiny.
A large part of what I do at the law school entails email communications between me and student/faculty/attorney/public patrons seeking legal reference assistance and general library items and services. In addition, there is the matter of sorting out what emails were related to my law student activities since my employment and time as a student there run concurrently. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of emails like this for school officials to sort through, review, and redact to protect patron confidentiality and my personal communications with people in order to comply with Chase Dugger’s request. I’m not sure the ARGOP quite realized the scope of their request, frankly. To be politicking from my office and not be cognizant of the state employee/FOIA dynamic, especially in light of knowing my colleague is out there making noise about these very sorts of things regarding the Secretary of State’s office — well, it would be totally reckless on my part to say the least. And it’s certainly not what happened. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever really heard the ARGOP even suggest I did anything wrong — or even annoying — at any point prior to or during this whole episode. I certainly have never served an FOIA request on an Arkansas Republican…or anyone else, for that matter.
I just hate that some colleagues of mine have to take up the task of gathering documents to comply with the Republicans’ request when I believe that the stacks of documented emails, travel expenses to national law library conferences, my earned leave time, and statements for things like office chairs will have been a waste of time to Dugger and others anyway. With a young family, a mortgage, and the plan of being an important part of the law school community for a long time, I have to protect myself and others when it comes to my political advocacy, and I know that. I’ll learn some lessons from the experience, but I’ve done nothing wrong and will certainly continue to try and contribute my ideas and voice in some way to the local political discourse in the coming months and years.