Democratic leadership rumble: Talk of disqualifying Dustin McDaniel for disloyalty | Arkansas Blog

Democratic leadership rumble: Talk of disqualifying Dustin McDaniel for disloyalty

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DUSTIN MCDANIEL: Backed both sides of 2014 attorney general race. Should that disqualify him from a Democratic National Committee slot?
  • DUSTIN MCDANIEL: Backed both sides of 2014 attorney general race. Should that disqualify him from a Democratic National Committee slot?
Arkansas Democrats will elect their national committeeman and committeewoman later this summer and I'm hearing a challenge could be made to Dustin McDaniel's re-election to the committeeman slot.

Reason: The former attorney general supported a Republican in 2014.

The Democratic State Committee recently recommended tightening of a rule on loyalty to say "Public expressions of support, including campaign contributions, for candidates opposing  nominees of the Democratic Party of Arkansas shall be the basis for censure or removal." Does this mean debt repayment of a winning comment, one person asked. It did, said a member of the committee.

That brings us to Dustin McDaniel.

He was a prominent and energetic backer of Democrat Nate Steel for attorney general in 2014. But .... after Republican Leslie Rutledge won, as I reported in April 2015, he turned up on the list of people who'd given money (the maximum $2,000) to help Rutledge pay off a sizable campaign debt incurred in spending to beat Nate Steel. Technically speaking, Rutledge got McDaniel money after she no longer had a Democratic opponent. But it was repayment of money she spent to beat Steel.

Disqualifier? Many,  not too surprisingly, think so. I've asked McDaniel for comment. He's in private law practice now and has done some Democratic party legal work in the past.  Note that there was no rule on party loyalty at the time he gave money and the rule technically won't take effect until ratification at the State Convention later this summer, the same meeting at which the national committee members will be elected.

Seems to me no technical rule is necessary. A do-right rule ought to suffice. If you're shipping money to a Republican who beat a Democrat (and who continues to oppose virtually everything a good Democrat stands for) you've disqualified yourself as a candidate for Democratic Party office (without awfully good extenuating circumstances). What might they be. Well, here's one: what if an independent was the only opponent to, say, Jason Rapert. Would you want to prevent a good citizen Democrat who wanted to help defeat the Bully of Bigelow?


Noted: McDaniel also went to bat for a whopping huge pay raise (to $165,000) for Rutledge before the independent citizens commission that gave a round of big pay raises to state elected officials last year.. Alas, Rutledge had to settle for $130,000.

On the other hand, "Gen." McDaniel hosted a fund-raiser in April to help send the Democratic delegation to the national convention.


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UPDATE: A response from McDaniel indicates, in addition to outlining his devotion to Democratic causes, that helping Rutledge was something of a down payment on treatment of employees in his office who might hope to hang on in the new administration.

"I have represented Arkansas at the DNC for 2 years, and represented the Democratic Attorneys General Association as its delegate to the DNC for 3 years before that.

My wife and I just hosted a fundraiser at our home to help raise money to assist our convention goers with travel and hotel costs. That fundraiser featured Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of South Carolina, the Southern Regional Chair of the DNC. I appreciated her coming to help me with that important effort. I am working on organizing a second such event in Northwest Arkansas.

Never before has a DNC representative from Arkansas made fundraising for DNC functions a priority of the job. I am committed to establishing that has a responsibility that my successors will carry-on.

I have raised more than $100,000 for Hillary Clinton for President the cycle alone, and I am hosting fundraisers between now and November for Democratic candidates ranging from the Craighead County Sheriff to Governor (Montana and Missouri) to the United States Senate (California, Nevada and just last night for Conner Eldridge here in Arkansas.)

My commitment to Nate Steel for Attorney General was deep and tangible, but we lost. I wanted to have the smoothest transition possible for the nearly 200 employees of that office. I do not believe a debt retirement check to my successor negates my loyalty or service to my party, nor does it make me ineligible to run for DNC under the rules.

I am sending letters out this week to formally notify state committee members of my intent to run and my desire to earn their support."


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