Columns » Max Brantley

All along the watchtower

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A mishmash this week:

• UNETHICAL: The Committee for Little Rock's Future, organized to promote the half-billion-dollar Little Rock sales tax increase and largely funded by the real estate industry, has so far raised more than $112,000 for the campaign. Lots more will turn up after the election this week, which tax backers expect to win. The committee's original finance report did not disclose specific expenditures except to the Markham Group, which is managing the campaign.

After I reported on the Arkansas Blog that I would file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission over the lack of specific expense disclosure, the committee added some broad categorical reporting — $15,000 for radio ads, $43,000 for mail expenses and $46,000 for "campaign workers." Not a single specific person or business was listed. It's clear the law is intended to favor disclosure, though you could argue it could have been more clearly written.

This much is clear: If the Arkansas ethics law allows campaign committees to funnel money through a third party (call them a campaign manager, call them a bag man, call them whatever) to disburse as a means of avoiding explicit expense disclosure, the law is inadequate and must be fixed — soon. An honest political operation wouldn't be ashamed to report who they pay. The city campaign has not been honest.

• ARKANSAS LOTTERY: Something is cooking at the Arkansas Lottery. Want to gamble? I think the odds are better on a leadership change at the lottery than your chances of hitting a $1,000 scratch-off ticket. And since we're in the speculation business: If there is a leadership change, don't be surprised by an in-state hire, as opposed to a national search, and a dramatically lower compensation package.

• KOCHS AT WORK: Sad news from Crossett last week that Georgia-Pacific was going to shut down a plywood operation and fire 700 workers of a 2,100-worker force before the year is out. Times will be hard for G-P workers, but not for the billionaire Koch brothers, who own G-P.

I wonder how G-P workers feel now if they voted for the candidates that the Koch brothers urged their Crossett employees to vote for in 2010 through slates distributed by a Koch Industries-funded independent expenditure committee. Koch-funded politicians think unemployment compensation is for deadbeats and encourages a welfare mentality. The Kochs are busy trying to elect them at both the state and national level. The Kochs are THE driving force behind the Americans for Prosperity, another so-called "non-partisan" group that has nothing but good things to say about conservative Republicans and nothing but bad to say about mainstream Democrats. When these groups pop up preaching the Republican prosperity doctrine or promoting the merits of a Republican congressional or legislative candidate, remember Crossett.

SEPT. 11 OBSERVANCES: Is anybody really likely to forget?

• CORRECTION: I wrote incorrectly last week that Little Rock School Board candidate, Loretta Hendrix, a write-in candidate in Zone 1 against Norma Johnson, had intended to file conventionally for the school ballot but missed the deadline. Rather, she said she chose to qualify for the ballot as a write-in — "the hard way," as she characterized it to another reporter. Also, she's now 63, not 62. She said she's a stickler for details and wouldn't have graduated from Hall High School had she not been.

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