by Max Brantley
University of Central Arkansas President Tom Courtway announced today that Gilbert Baker will be joining the UCA executive staff effective January 15, 2013. Baker’s title will be Executive Assistant to the President and his salary will be $132,000 per year.
Baker’s duties will include work on special projects; university development and communications; community outreach throughout Arkansas; government relations on the federal, state and local levels; and other matters.
“Gilbert Baker knows the University of Central Arkansas very well”, Courtway said. “For over twenty years, he was a valued employee of UCA until his election to the Arkansas State Senate in 2000. Although he began his service at UCA as an instructor in the music department, and later was granted tenure as an Assistant Professor, he also served UCA as an academic adviser, Associate Dean, and was a member of the UCA Faculty Senate. I am very pleased that he has agreed to come back to UCA. He is coming back home.”
Government relations. That's a euphemism for lobbying, whether Baker tries to distance himself from direct bill advocacy or not. (He claims he won't be technically lobbying for a "cooling off" period, but he's already been making nice to elected officials with friendly phone calls, just don't call it lobbying. He didn't promise not to set foot in the Capitol during the coming legislative session as far as I know.) Baker, please note, was part of the 2011 legislative majority that exempted current members of the legislature, such as himself, from a new ethics law. It allows people like himself to go to the lobby immediately after leaving their legislative jobs this year. There's a one-year delay for future members. That was called ethics reform by this gang of boodlers.
Baker, former Joint Budget co-chair who worked in political organizations to support the agenda of the new Republican majority, undoubtedly will have lots of friends to meet and greet in the Capitol hallways. I had asked him several times this year about everyone's expectation that he was heading to the lobby. He never would respond.
It stunk when sitting Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross took a government relations job. It stinks when Gilbert Baker does it. Surely nobody will say this deal wasn't discussed WHILE BAKER WAS STILL A MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE. Baker, of course, sponsored UCA spending legislation in the last session, plus the state funding formula for all colleges, plus support for more charter schools (a key focus of an organization based at UCA).
Remember Gilbo stinks already from the Lu Hardin era. His kid got preferred housing one of several inside special cases uncovered and the school also provided crew and tents for a campaign fund-raiser at a UCA trustee's house when Baker ran for U.S. Senate. He also drew some pay working for a private foundation that raised some of ITS money from, where else?, the UCA Foundation.
Sorry, Tom. You don't get sainted on this one.
Debra Hale-Shelton, where are you?