by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today followed (but didn't credit) the Arkansas Blog disclosure that $5,000 in state General Improvement Fund money would pay for a July 4 fireworks show tonight at the Saline County Fairgrounds in Benton.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson "requested" that the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District use some of the $1 million he sent to the agency for the show and naturally they agreed to help out the man who feeds them tax money. It's a sham process, meant to sidestep a state Supreme Court ruling that prohibited direct funding of legislators' special interest local projects, such as, say, fireworks shows.
Scoundrel Hutchinson and his cohort on the Saline Republican Committee take refuge in patriotism. Who doesn't love a good fireworks show? Indeed. So why doesn't the state pay for all of them statewide?
It's deliciously wasteful state spending because the Tea Party, which normally hates wasteful spending, got talked into putting $500 into the show AFTER Hutchinson and Republican County Committee leader Kerry Murphy indicated Hutchinson had lined up a major sponsor. Hutchinson told the Democrat-Gazette that he had very little to do with the grant. Right. Remember that the Fair Board's Gary Webb told me that he didn't apply for the grant, somebody else did. That application was filled out in the Fairgrounds name by the Planning District after Hutchinson called its director. That's what director Rodney Larsen told me.
Many tangled webs here.
Long and short: Hutchinson and Murphy, who's running for county judge, cooked up a scheme to "save" the annual fireworks show with majority financing from state taxpayers. They are claiming sponsorship, along with the Tea Party. So is Hutchinson's radio station KEWI. Nice work on the state teat.
Hutchinson doesn't talk to me because I want to ask him questions about more than fireworks — specifically the supposed legal work he does as an attorney for paying clients who he then coincidentally helps with state legislation. He has an ex-girlfriend, too, spoiling to confront him on further questions about his use of campaign money and other more personal matters. You could see where he'd want to wrap himself in the flag in advance of his primary race next year against Rep. Ann Clemmer. Whether that's enough coverup remains to be seen.
If you believe Hutchinson when he says this isn't political, please look at what was posted on the Saline County Republican Committee's Facebook page hours after I'd blown the whistle on this self-aggrandizing soak-the-taxpayer scheme. It is still being promoted thusly: