by Max Brantley
Plenty of good, bad and ugly (in honor of chair-talking Clint Eastwood) in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning, but let's begin with the good:
* CREDIT WHERE DUE: To Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan, a Republican who've I've had occasion to chide a time or two, for giving up the statutory fee he could claim for administering foreclosure sales. A number of county clerks successfully fought Democratic legislation to return those fees to the county treasury rather than continuing the pay supplement for some of them. FYI: Larry Crane, clerk of the state's largest county, Pulaski, doesn't take such fees either. Let's hope Rep. Eddie Cheatham, currently running for Senate, tries again to stop this pay supplement for clerks. While he's at it, he might take a look at saving the counties some significant sums on the current law that requires expensive newspaper publication of notices of such sales. There are cheaper, more broadly and freely accessible means of publication, such as the clerks' websites. UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Larry Crane informs me that he has now taken the fees for foreclosure sales, which are directed to the clerk or others who conduct the sales and has paid taxes on them, as required. But he says he has also used the money for office-related expenses, including employee shirts. He didn't take the money his first year in office (as earlier news articles I relied on had reported), but began taking it in part because he was advised he was obligated to pay taxes on the money. He said that, to date, he's used none of the money for a strictly personal use except to pay the taxes owed. I've asked him for the amount he's received. UPDATE: He said he's received a total of $66,653, but notes that includes $42,000 from an extraordinary single foreclosure sale, of the $42 million Shackleford Crossing shopping center.
NOTE ANOTHER CORRECTION: I initially referred to Milligan incorrectly as county clerk. He's a circuit court clerk.
AND A PS FOR HISTORY: Multiple callers who do work in Saline County tell me Milligan, reportedly planning a race for state treasurer in 2014, spun this thing all out of proportion with the facts. By their account, circuit judges weren't happy that Milligan wasn't doing the sales himself and had said they wouldn't continue to pay Milligan's assistants for performing the sales. If he wanted to be paid, he'd have to conduct them. So he agreed to do so, but crafted it in a way to maximize his political benefit. The net effect is still a capture of the money for the county, which remains a good thing. Milligan, with help of Huckabee bro-in-law Jim Harris, has been a publicity spinning machine in the office and it sounds like we'll be seeing more of him.
* VOTE SUPPRESION DRIVE CONTINUES: Republican Rep. Bryan King vows to try again to pass legislation to require a photo voter ID to vote in Arkansas elections. By now, the evidence is overwhelming nationally that the intent of these laws is to suppress voting by natural Democratic constituencies and there's no credible evidence of any measurable problem in misrepresentation of ID at the polls. The reason is largely that it's not effective in stealing elections. It is effective, however, to keep people without driver's licenses away from voting booths. King came up with a single anecdotal tale about votes allegedly cast in the name of his father during an absence from the state that ended 30 years ago. That bears more inspection, of course. But it hardly proves the need for a new law when the current law can deter voting by people without IDs and which also provides all kinds of safeguards against impersonation, including a rigorous ID process at registration. Republicans would have higher credibility, if, like the Republican official in Pennsylvania, they simply admitted this was about vote suppression.
As usual, Jon Stewart nails voter ID.
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