by Max Brantley
In an interview with the City Wire, he complained mightily about the initiative campaign to tighten Arkansas ethics law. It would stop direct corporate contributions to political candidates and subject Arkansas politicians to the same rules Walmart applies to its employees — no gifts from people (lobbyists) seeking favors.
Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, a Republican, said Thursday he questions the motives of those pushing a proposed ethics reform ballot initiative.
...Darr also said he thinks the effort is pushed by Democrats who “want to change the rules” now that Republicans may gain a majority in one or both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature. Further, he said it is odd that politicians now pushing for tougher ethics rules didn’t do so when they were in power.
Where to begin? Maybe with the blue-ribbon Republicans — Jim Keet, John Paul Hammerschmidt, Lisenne Rockefeller, current Republican Party Chair Doyle Webb — who've endorsed the measure. Webb, to name one, as a state senator DID try unsuccessfully to stiffen ethics laws.
Or maybe we could begin with Darr's latest campaign finance report, a recent debt retirement report larded with corporate contributions. Oh, yes, it also includes some handouts from other legislators, notably Eddie Joe Williams, who, despite a Senate election challenger, has so much money he can throw $2,000 to help Darr retire debts. Every single dollar on Williams' last finance report came from a corporation or PAC.
Or maybe we could consider that peculiar phenomenom, the unemployed Republican legislator who has no visible means of support other than state pay, expense accounts padded by bogus "expenses" of consulting companies and relatives and luncheon and nighttime rounds footed by compliant lobbyists. Better ethics laws might force some of these fellows to get a real job.
There's an unseemliness about trying to hang onto this corporate IV, don't you think? (By the way, many Democrats aren't happy about the ethics proposal, either, but have sense enough to not whine about losing a gravy train. Darr, seeking to be the corporate party's gubernatorial candidate in 2014, is the most motivated at the moment to keep the corporate money coming. He needs it.)
The ethics initiative, by the way, is the product of a Catholic High School teacher motivated by clean government, not partisan politics. It has, as I've indicated, bipartisan support. If it so happens that the loudest voices against cleaner government have come from the Republican side of the aisle (think Rep. John Burris and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson — Hutchinson is another whose campaign reports would have little money without the corporate bankrollers), draw your own conclusions.