Quote of the Week:
"I suspect, after this week, when Donald Trump is the nominee and he begins to receive classified briefings ... he may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and what Russia is doing to America's interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East and Asia."
— U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, trying to explain away the Republican nominee's foreign policy heresies, including his apparent admiration for Putin and his disdain for NATO. Though Cotton is known for his hawkishness, the Arkansas senator is still embracing Trump. Well, sort of — in his speech to the Republican National Convention, Cotton avoided using the candidate's full name and only mentioned "a Trump-Pence administration" once.
Two other Arkansans for Trump also addressed the RNC in Cleveland last week. Governor Hutchinson, who once told Arkansas voters they must "stop the Donald Trump show," is now fully on board the Trump train. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge used her moment in the spotlight to pan Hillary Clinton's accent; she then slathered on an extra helping of drawl to declare, "Y'all, this is what a real Arkansas woman sounds like." Former Gov. Mike Huckabee was originally scheduled to speak as well, but Fox News said he couldn't do so while also being a paid commentator for the network. Huckabee opted for the cash.
The big drama at the RNC was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's refusal to endorse Trump, and the ongoing divides in the GOP played out in some small parochial ways, too. Hot-tempered state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow), a Trump convert, had a hostile encounter on the convention floor with some state legislators from Colorado. (According to one, Rapert was trying to "bully" a female pro-Cruz delegate.) This week, the Dems face their own fissures as the DNC gets under way in Philadelphia. But Bernie Sanders is no Cruz: On Monday night, the Vermont senator told his diehard supporters "Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States."
Ted Suhl convicted of bribery
After a five-day trial, a jury convicted former mental health care provider Ted Suhl on four of six counts in a federal bribery prosecution mounted by the U.S. Justice Department. Suhl, whose businesses have received hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements to treat troubled youth around Arkansas, was accused of bribing a top official at the Department of Human Services, the state agency responsible for overseeing Medicaid and regulating mental health providers. Former DHS Deputy Director Steven Jones has already pleaded guilty to accepting cash from Suhl through a middleman. Suhl still maintains the money was intended to be a charitable contribution to a West Memphis church, but the jury believed the prosecution's argument that the church was simply a convenient means of laundering payments from Suhl to Jones. Suhl's legal team has vowed to seek a new trial.
Governor OK to stump, panel says
The Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint brought against Governor Hutchinson for campaigning for a legislative candidate during normal office hours. Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell (the brains behind the Blue Hog Report blog) said Hutchinson's campaign assists violated state law, even if other elected officials of both parties have done the same in the past. After a brief investigation, the Ethics Commission rejected that argument, saying the governor effectively took leave when he attended the campaign events. Campbell is appealing the decision in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Disenfranchised? Not our problem.
Oops. An unknown number of Arkansas voters have been mistakenly flagged for removal from the registration rolls, the Arkansas Secretary of State's office admitted, including some 4,000 people who have never been convicted of a felony but were wrongly identified as felons by the Arkansas Crime Information Center. The office passed on the flawed data to county clerks, some of whom may have canceled those voters' registrations. If that wasn't bad enough, though, the state office now wants to wash its hands of the matter: A spokesperson told the Arkansas Times that it's the job of the county clerks to vet data sent from the state. In other words, call and make sure you're registered before Nov. 8.