Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson
99 % HONEST? So says a lawmaker. We have our doubts.
is getting his money's worth from ace criminal defense lawyer Tim Dudley, who's
vigorously defending the senator against government allegations of bribery by saying all the money Hutchinson received from his retainer by Preferred Family Healthcare was for legitimate legal work.
The half-million in retainer fees that admitted felon lobbyist and PFH exec Rusty Cranford got paid to Hutchinson only covered real legal stuff, it did not buy Hutchinson's support and participation for many of Cranford's legislative endeavors. Or so we are expected to believe. That was just
good government. Bribery is the characterization of a guilty plea Cranford entered. Hutchinson has not been charged.
Dudley was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Preferred Family Healthcare, formerly known as Alternative Opportunities, has numerous contracts with the state Department of Human Services and with school districts across the state, Dudley said and state records confirm. Sen. Hutchinson represented the company in lawsuits, property subleases and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints, Dudley said.
Indeed, Preferred Family has 10s of millions in taxpayer-financed business, mainly thanks to Medicaid, It has received extra grants and preferential regulation thanks to Cranford's work.
But lawsuits, you say?
A search of the state's on-line court records system and the federal courts record system for the eastern and western districts of Arkansas turns up not a single case in which Hutchinson is listed as an attorney for Preferred Family Healthcare or any of its related organizations. The records do show Hutchinson has done a smattering of civil and criminal lawsuit work over the last five years, including Cranford's own divorce, a misdemeanor charge against Cranford's son and a traffic case against the elder Cranford. He's been busy, too, responding on his own behalf to state tax liens, default on a bank loan and an SUV repo.
One other comment in the so far tepid response to the growing evidence of massive corruption n the Arkansas legislature: Amid a general silence on the scandal, three Republican senators
finally stepped forward yesterday and said Hutchinson should resign, a step his uncle, Gov. Asa Hutchinson
, hasn't taken. They were Sens. Terry Rice and Bill Sample and Rep. John Payton,
I had to laugh at a quote attributed to Sample by the D-G's Michael Wickline
"Ninety-nine percent of this body are good, honest people, but the perception that we are not is killing this body and it's just for the body's integrity that he should be asked to resign," Sample said. "It is not whether he is guilty or not. I am not wanting to be a judge or a jury."
There are 135 members of the General Assembly. One percent of the body would be 1.35 legislators. To date, former legislators Micah Neal, Jon Woods, Jake Files, Eddie Cooper and Hank Wilkins
have pleaded guilty or been convicted of public corruption charges. Numerous other legislators have been identified as on the payroll for special interests while serving as legislators and advancing the special interests' agenda, including former Sen. Michael Lamoureux,
the governor's former chief of staff. Then you have Rep. Bob Ballinger
, a business associate with another recipient of state work and successful bidder for a marijuana cultivation permit on an application graded by Ballinger's law partner, Travis Story
. You've got the House speaker, Jeremy Gillam
, decamping for a fat lobbyist job before his term is up. You've got a former senator and now lobbyist, Gilbert Baker, hipdeep
in guiding smelly campaign contributions to judicial candidates. You've got a sitting senator, Linda Chesterfield
, paid a handsome fee by Preferred Family for guidance on "diversity outreach." Numerous legislators in Northwest Arkansas willingly forked over $700,000 to a shady Christian college incorporated as a church in Springdale. The college's leader has pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to legislators. No legislator has sought to recoup that money, which was used to buy property on which Ballinger was paid a fee as a closing agent. Sen. Bart Hester
and Sen. Joyce Elliott
and others shipped state tax money to churches, despite constitutional questions, amid millions in unconstitutional spending in the now defunct General Improvement Fund pork barrel scandal. And that isn't all.
Just saying: 99 percent strikes me as a mite high.