by Max Brantley
Random notes from the morning mail:
* WHY DOES DUSTIN MCDANIEL HATE STRONGER ETHICS LAW? Paul Spencer, the Catholic High teacher laboring heroically to qualify the Regnat Populus ethics initiative for the Arkansas ballot, engages in some understandable snark about the picayunish attention Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is giving to defeat efforts to get the measure qualified for the ballot. Spencer's letter on the matter follows.
My Dear Friends,
The games continue. In spite of a very demanding fund-raising schedule, the Attorney General has found time to again reject our ballot title.
This rejection was based on the following two reasons;
1. Because we increased the penalty from a Class B Misdemeanor to the more serious Class A Misdemeanor, we failed to address the “mental state” of the offender-that is whether the person accused of a violation intended to accept the steak dinner at Doe’s, which was paid for by a person he/she knew to be a lobbyist, as compared to an accused person unwittingly accepting a steak dinner at Doe’s ,and paid for by some random citizen he/she did not know to be a lobbyist. Understandable, as this is a common occurrence in my career as a high school teacher. Furthermore, I might find this to be a credible reason if it were not for the fact that this particular point of law seems to be somewhat hit and miss in the States’ own hand books governing election rules and ethics material.
2. The second issue stems from what seems to be Regnat Populus’ ubiquitous chronic use of “ambiguous” punctuation. I have compared those portions of our 2014 measure that are intended to be identical to the 2012 language- specifically that of his oft-cited Opinion 2012-049- which was approved by Mr. Mc Daniel. Lo! There are indeed differences in the punctuation- the use of semi-colons where we had previously had used commas and hyphens! O- the humanity! Or is it “O, the humanity!”…. Who can know?
Now, I am told by the English faculty at work that the comma is the correct choice. However, our use of semi-colons does not change the meaning of the text. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe the A.G. has grammatical prerogative and thusly has not been invested by some mystical sacrament as the state Grammarian. Additionally, Mr. McDaniel-should he choose- may substitute a more accurate ballot title. As such, the “Campaign Finance and Lobbying Act of 2014” could have been changed to something more accurate. Perhaps the “Campaign Finance and Lobbying Act Formerly Using Commas But As Of Now Incorrectly using Semi-colons To Denote The End of Phrases Act Of 2014”.
So, what’s next? Clearly we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and change those semi-colons back into commas. We’ll add the one-yes, one word needed to rectify the” mental state” faux pas. Then re-submit. Then wait. Perhaps while we wait, we may feel compelled to ponder the inverse correlation that adding the state’s constitutional officers to our proposal has had on the likelihood of a speedy approval process. The good news resulting from all of this grammatical brinksmanship is that Mr. McDaniel is helping us craft so iron-clad a proposal that should he become governor, he himself would need to expend great effort as to not run afoul of his own handiwork.
My best wishes and prayers to you and to all you hold within your hearts during this holiday season.