by Max Brantley
Let's toss out the open line early. Odds and ends:
* CHILD PORN: The U.S. attorney says a Searcy couple has been indicted for production of child pornography, specifically images made of the man having sex with a minor female.
* BOOZE BROTHERS: Sam Walton grandsons Steuart and Tom Walton have so far poured $330,000 ($165K each) into the campaign to call a vote on legalizing retail alcohol sales in Benton County. About $58,000 has gone to a company that pays canvassers for signatures.
* ALSO REPORTING: Here's the report on $65,000 raised by the Better Ethics Now Committee for the campaign to get the ethics law on the ballot. Chair Brent Bumpers and his family led the way. Other significant contributors include Baker Kurrus and Bobby Roberts. Full disclosure: You'll find my $250 in the modest amounts raised by the original Regnat Populus 2012 committee.
* HOW MUCH IS A LOW SEVERANCE TAX WORTH? The gas company expenditures to beat a gas severance tax increase now total $1.55 million — $600,000 each from Southwestern Energy and Stephens Production and $350,000 from XTO. And this is before Sheffield Nelson has qualified the proposal for the ballot. His group has raised $155,000 overall.
* CASINOS? No spending report on file yet at the Ethics Commission for the group trying to put a casino amendment on the ballot. Nothing since organizing papers in May. They are, if not spending money, obligating expenditures, because they have paid canvassers everywhere.
* CATHOLIC HOSPITALS SAY NO TO BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: Hospitals with Catholic affiliations have told President Obama they reject his compromise plan to provide birth control pills and other preventive services to employees through mandates on insurance companies. St. Vincent Health System no longer talks to us since we've reported on their birth control policies. Presumably, the Little Rock hospital is on board with denial of birth control coverage for their employees, despite some contradictory state law guidance and even some conflicts in its own operations. Pressure from the bishops has been heavy on this and other issues related to sexuality, including rights for gay people. Surveys show broad disregard for the hierarchy in use of birth control among Catholics, free or not.
* WALMART PR PRACTICES: A Walmart-hired PR employee who did undercover work was mentioned here yesterday. Was it a first? Gawker makes the contrary case.