Columns » Bob Lancaster

Clemmer scheme


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The Arkansas Times weblog had a news item last week about a state legislator from Benton having employed a nifty little scheme to gouge taxpayers.

In addition to receiving her regular legislative pay, this state rep submits expense accounts that include consulting fees amounting to thousands upon thousands of do-la-re. Only the consultant that she allegedly consults in these consultations, and to whom she authorizes payment of those audacious additional sums, is herself.

She's her own consultant, and her consultant's only client is herself.

And you get to pay her both. Unlike the STP guy, you pay her now and pay her later too. And as many more times as she's of a notion to bill you.

This isn't a Ponzi scheme. It's a variety of the old-fashioned double-dip now known locally as a Clemmer scheme. There are other names for it among those who are hot about how bad it sucks, but nevermind about that.

Anyway, the blog report on this got me wondering why only legislators get to have Clemmer schemes. Why couldn't we all have a Clemmer scheme? Fix yourself one tailored to your particular occupational situation, and I'll personalize one for Ol' Moi.

In my case, I'd hire myself out to myself as a newspaper column-writing consultant, and send the bill for the consulting fee to my employer, the Arkansas Times.

Here's a more detailed look at the Ol' Moi Clemmer.

All right, Ol' Moi the columnist decides that this column — this column right here, I mean — could use some fresh air. It's got tired and stale. It lies around like an old dog. It lately has tacked from the gutless eccentric directly into the totally opaque. It needs a good consultant to help it get its groove back.

So I launch a Bobslist search, and, I doggies Lum, it turns out that the best consultant of the type I'm looking for is from none other than the celebrated firm of Me Myself & I.

Ol' Moi the consultant (this would be Ol' Moi the columnist's alter ego) has the requisite experience, credentials, expertise, and geezerly numb-minded time on his hands that would be better spent on moonlight self-consultation than what he spends it on now, which, I'm sorry to say, is a kind of generic pottering that beggars further description.

So Columnist Ol' Moi rings up Consultant Ol' Moi to propose the Clemmer scheme.

Consultant Ol' Moi tentatively agrees but says, "The only thing is, I'm not going down for gum wrappers any more. I've pro-ed all the bono in this racket that I'm going to."

Columnist Ol' Moi replies to that: "I'm not trying to lowball you, Dude. I might anybody else but it wouldn't make much sense here."

Consultant Ol' Moi says: "I'm talking a high fee, Bro, like Zig Ziglar gets, and them thrice-divorced motivational types that live in a van down by the river. You think the Arkansas Times would spring for that?"

And Columnist Ol' Moi: "Aw, yeah, they've always been generous in their pursuit of journalistic excellence. They'll spare no expense if they think it'll draw a little higher quality punditry out of a body. It's the oldest free alternative weekly west of the Mississippi River, after all, bringing its readers local, national, and international news since 1819. Or thereabout."

Consultant Ol' Moi affects a mulling posture, then finally says: "All right, then, as I understand it, the going Clemmer rate is $2,000 a whack. The kind of work we do is at least twice as important as what state legislators do — I'm citing Edmund Burke here — so how does $4,000 sound?

Columnist Ol' Moi:"How much consulting would $4,000 buy me?

Consultant Ol' Moi shrugs: "An hour's worth?"

Columnist Ol' Moi: "How about $50 worth just for a trial run?"

Consultant Ol' Moi: "For $50 I could give you a topic for this week's column. It'd be about legislators finding clever new ways to rip off taxpayers, and how that might inspire luckless old newspaper hands to try something similar."

Columnist Ol' Moi: "C'mon now. You're just looking at the preceding paragraphs. You didn't have anything to do with writing those, so you can't charge $50 for suggesting them post facto. Not in good conscience you can't."

Consultant Ol' Moi: "I don't think good conscience has any place in a Clemmer scheme."

He had a point there. Columnist Ol' Moi thought of Bill Bennett and Ralph Reed and Dick Morris the toe-sucking guy and some of the other $4,000-level consultants who are also $4,000-level pricks.

Consultant Ol' Moi says: "OK, I've got you another topic. Earthquakes."

Columnist Ol' Moi: " Dude, you Google earthquakes. You don't look for them here."

Consultant Ol' Moi: "No, I mean the humorous side of earthquakes."

So we've got the humorous side of earthquakes in the bank. Coming soon to a column near you. Maybe next week.


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