REMEMBER WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DOGS AND FLEAS: Controversial lobbyist Bruce Hawkins will be offering free drinks to legislators at the Capitol Hotel mezzanine this afternoon to give lawmakers someplace to rest between a Leslie Rutledge reception and the inaugural ball.
Yes, it's inaugural day. There's a ball tonight. Leslie Ruledge is pouring drinks at the Capital Hotel
, too, but only for those who buy a ticket to help pay off campaign debt — 60 cents of very dollar goes straight into Rutledge's pocket to repay a loan she took out to get elected.
But that doesn't mean the lobby isn't at work oiling legislators who might prefer not to buy a ticket to the inaugural ball or Rutledge's hoedown.
On the schedule today:
Arkansas State University
and the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce
will be pouring liberally from 5 to 7 p,.m,. in the swank new ASU System offices in the 501 building across Woodlane from the Capitol.
From 5 to 11 p.m., DBH Management
and "its clients" will be pouring booze on the mezzanine of the Capital Hotel
. See, you can look across the street at the inaugural goers. You can also segue "seamlessly," to use Rutledge's press release word for her transition, from her cocktail party in the hotel to the DBH cocktail party.
And who is DBH, you might ask? None other than the vast lobbying operation of former legislator Bruce Hawkins,
whose notable clients include the Conway County alcohol combine that has fought mightily to prevent neighboring counties from having alcohol sales equivalent to those in Conway County.
Hawkins also created a PAC with Republican lawyer Chris Stewart
which he insists was just coincidental and unconnected to Chris Stewart's creation of a string of other PACS in cahoots with Gilbert Baker.
Those latter PACs were used to funnel money to Mike Maggio and are now part of the sweeping story told in Maggio's guilty plea to a bribery charge apparently involving former Republican senator Baker. Nothing to do with Hawkins, he swears. He swears he didn't know his PAC gave money to Maggio until he read it in the newspaper. He did pay Gilbert Baker as a consultant for a couple of years, but, hey, when you want somebody who can navigate politics, you only want to hire the best. And Baker had all the right connections with the rising Republican majority.
Here are the clients Hawkins billed
on his most recent disclosure report, leading with more than $4,000 charged to Conway County booze dealers. But police chiefs
, the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care
, Southwestern Energy,
the Ambulance Association
, several insurance companies and others are also paying Hawkins.
These swill-downs by ASU and Hawkins are legally free under the broad exclusion written into new Amendment 94
that says if all members of a public body, such as the legislature or the standing subcommittee on legislative entertainment, chowder and marching societies, are invited to an event, they may be slopped at will, despite the new rule about no gifts to legislators.
Careful if you recline on a sofa with Hawkins and Co. You might get up with fleas.
No, garden variety taxpayers are not invited. But they'll pay the tab one way or the other.