by Max Brantley
I'm going to start early. Some mid-afternoon notes:
* CAMPAIGN CHEATING: I commented here yesterday about Democrat-Gazette reporting on what I believe to be a blatant violation of ethics rules — contributions by Republican senators with hefty campaign surpluses (because they are generally unopposed) to campaigns of Republican candidates in hot races. It's a personal use of campaign cash prohibited by the rules, but Republicans are exploiting a loophole that allows expenditures for certain "ticketed events" if you could show they benefit your campaign. No way they can do that here. The exposure in the daily newspaper has stung Republicans. They've gone to past years and found — as I noted yesterday — that Democrats have also made campaign money contributions in years past, though not this year, to "ticketed events." Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, sitting on a huge treasury as an unopposed candidate in 2010, gave out $26,000 in this dubious fashion. The Republican defense of ethical violations today is, you guessed it: "They did it too." And Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks.
The GOP spin is a little aggravating because Republicans are distorting the rules even as they claim to be on the cusp of a new, cleaner day in Arkansas politics. Can I try, again, to be clear? This practice of diverting campaign cash to other campaigners, by both Republicans this year and Democratic candidates in past years, is wrong. I think the rules already prohibit it. If they don't, they should, along with all corporate contributions. Here's one small difference: I don't hear any New Order Republican candidates calling for an ethics law cleanup. A few Democrats have been willing to do so. But Republican Duncan Baird IS on board with Regnat Populus' initiated act, along with former candidates Jim Keet and Doyle Webb, so that's something.
* SCHOOL CHOICE LAWSUIT: Camden Fairview and El Dorado, school districts that intervened in the federal lawsuit that struck down the state's school choice law because race could be used to prohibit a transfer, have asked federal Judge Robert Dawson to delay implementation of the ruling until the legislature has a chance to modify the law. But they said they didn't intend to appeal the finding. Magnet Cove, the majority white district to which parents of white Malvern students hoped to transfer their children, has joined the motion for a temporary stay.
* PETITION FUNNY BUSINESS: The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/gas industry campaign against a proposal to raise the severance tax yesterday distributed a video it made of an alleged petition canvasser claiming the severance tax proposal would raise gas prices. Sheffield Nelson, who's leading the petition effort, said he'd talked with the contractor hiring and training canvassers and she said, unequivocally, "It's not one of ours." She said the man in the video had come into her office, asked strange questions, didn't participate in a training class but took some petitions and left. "We believe it's a plant," Nelson said. The anti-severance tax meanwhile has released another shaky undercover video of another purported canvasser being led to say things about the petition. Lucas Hargraves, working for the Chamber anti-tax campaign, said: "What was recorded on this video was not planted, and, unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. There have been many reports of canvassers telling people the proposal will “lower the gas tax.”"
* BODY IDENTIFIED AS MISSING TRAIN PASSENGER: Fox 16's David Goins says a body found near tracks in Clay County has been identified Andrew Haukereid, 79, who was reported missing from an Amtrak train last month.
* GO HOGS GO: Saw a Twitter today from Luke Russert, TV newsman and son of the late Tim Russert:
#Arkansas tour group doing the pig souie thing on Capitol steps now. Auburn tourists made snarky comments. Ahhh #SEC in #DC
Yes, he wrote souie. Lots of time spent in France, I guess.
* GO FROGS GO: Horseplayers beware. There's a new illegal potion making the the rounds to enhance thoroughbred performance, found in three neighboring states but not Arkansas — frog juice.
* PULASKI TEACHER CONTRACTS: As expected, a hearing panel ratified cuts in teacher contracts in the Pulaski County School District recommended by state Education Director Tom Kimbrell. The district is in receivership and Kimbrell acts as the School Board. Fox 16 reports.