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Ticket scalping is illegal in Arkansas, but it occurs. There was a busy eBay market in tickets to last week's sold-out Razorback-LSU game at War Memorial Stadium. A pair on the 50-yard-line went for $235 each the day before. Vendors also worked the fringes of the tailgating crowd, seeking and selling tickets, with prices quoted in the $150 to $250 range for the tickets, which had a $65 face value. Some sold items of nominal value, with tickets thrown in, as a scalping avoidance device. A sign on one truck read: "Two Cokes for sale — $16,000. 16 game tickets included." We didn't inquire if the offer was serious. As usual, prices dropped rapidly as kickoff approached. We have reports that several tickets were sold at face value right at game time. Police were at work, too. Undercover Little Rock cops made three scalping busts.

Thank-you note gone awry

The Southern Poverty Law Center gave House Speaker Robbie Wills a little unwanted publicity last week. Wills, who lost a race for Congress this year, sent form letters to all state political candidates — congratulations for winners and attaboys for losers. And we mean ALL candidates. He even wrote white supremacist Billy Roper, who piled up all of 49 votes as a write-in candidate for governor.

"It takes a special person to put their name on the ballot, and it says a lot about you that you had so many willing to help you with your campaign," Wills' letter reads. "You should be very proud of your campaign and you have my admiration and respect for making the effort. ... I hope you will consider running for office again in the future."

Roper touted the letter on his White Revolution website, which is apparently where the discrimination-fighting SPLC picked up on it.

Wills said in response to criticism that he treated all candidates equally and the letter constituted no endorsement of Roper or his ideas. Said Wills:

"He was a candidate and thus received a letter. The fact is anyone can run for office — no matter how crazy — and that's what makes America great. I was just trying to be nice but, as it usually happens when I do that, no good deed goes unpunished."

Tracking hate

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which caused a little discomfort for House Speaker Robbie Wills (see adjacent item), also made headlines last week for officially declaring that the Family Research Council, a leading promoter of conservative political causes, was a hate group on account of its anti-gay speech. Council leaders have suggested imprisonment of gays, among other things, and have cast gays as more likely to commit sex crimes.

There's a local angle. James Dobson, the right-wing preacher, established the Family Research Council. He also helped establish the Arkansas Family Council. It is actively anti-gay, also, and is listed on the national Family Research Council's website as an allied organization. The Arkansas group is independent financially and legally, however, if not in spirit.

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