The media try to keep an eye on government, to expose official misdeeds, but sometimes the best work in this line is done by citizen watchdogs such as Matt Campbell of Little Rock. Campbell has turned his steely gaze on Secretary of State Mark Martin. Madly partisan and ethically challenged, nobody needs watching more than Martin. One of the Republican secretary of state's immediate aims is strict enforcement of the new Vote Republican or Don't Vote Act, passed by Republican legislators to discourage voting by minorities, the elderly and the poor, all often inclined to vote Democratic. Martin seeks the shadows, but a fellow Republican, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, memorably called for light on the dark corners of state government, to set the "rats and roaches" scurrying. Campbell, a Democrat, seems to share Huckabee's view.
Campbell was forced to file suit against Martin after his office failed to provide documents as required by the state Freedom of Information Act about his office's frequent use of outside counsel. Naturally, Martin hired outside counsel to defend him in the FOI suit. (The money used on outside attorneys would be better spent on an ombudsman who'd advise Martin to follow the FOI and let the people know what their government's doing.) Martin already has lawyers on his secretary of state's payroll and the state attorney general is charged with representing state officials too. Martin has no legal authority to hire private lawyers, according to Campbell, who's filed a motion in the FOI lawsuit contending so. (If he does have it, he shouldn't. State agencies all too often hire full-time attorneys at high salaries, then spend even more money on private attorneys whenever the agencies have to go to court.) Campbell says Martin is the first secretary of state to hire private counsel. He should be the last.