by Max Brantley
Further evidence that the state Ethics Commission should have erred on the side of common sense and good ethics — and not syntactical sophistry — in reversing a staff finding and dismissing my complaint that the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce-backed campaign for a Little Rock sales tax violated state financial disclosure law by reporting campaign spending to its consultants, the Markham Group, and little else. The money washed through the Markham Group to advertising, mailings and other expenses unknown.
The Ethics Commission says it hopes to tighten up the law and make clear that issue campaigns should itemize spending just as political candidates must do. Meanwhile, transparency in campaign spending is non-existent.
Latest example that comes to hand — from a chamber of commerce, naturally. These boys —- and I do generally mean boys — simply don't believe in public disclosure. Just yesterday, the Little Rock Chamber refused to provide the Times documents circulating among Little Rock Technology Authority members about proposals to be the engineer to clear-cut a neighborhood for a new technology center. The chamber has them. The authority has them. The unwashed public? MYOB. (UPDATE: Copies of the data on engineers has just begun arriving about 1 p.m. today, following some support fromJoel Anderson, chancellor at UALR, who appointed a couple of the board members.)
Today, we have the Springdale Business and School Alliance ethical filing. The primary backer is the Springdale Chamber of Commerce — a $62,000 contribution on the June report, for example. It was established to pass a school millage last May. A June 9 report, filed after the election, showed these expenditures for the election month:
* $72 in expenses to a law firm.
* $99,008.15 to the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods office in Northwest Arkansas for "consulting services."
That ain't transparency.
Fix the law.