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The final days

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U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock says he’ll likely be leaving his job in the next few “weeks or months,” but almost certainly by the end of the year. He’d earlier told us he didn’t intend to serve out the entirety of the Bush administration’s second term and that he’d be looking for private sector work.

More newsy, perhaps, is who Cummins’ successor might be. Informed sources say one possibility for a White House nomination is Tim Griffin, an Arkansas native who has worked in top jobs at both the Republican National Committee and the White House on hard-charging political opposition research.

Though Griffin, currently finishing a military obligation, spent one year in Little Rock as an assistant U.S. attorney, his political work would likely get more attention — and Democratic opposition — in the Senate confirmation process. He’d likely have to endure some questioning about his role in massive Republican projects in Florida and elsewhere by which Republicans challenged tens of thousands of absentee votes. Coincidentally, many of those challenged votes were concentrated in black precincts.

If not Griffin, state Rep. Marvin Childers is another Arkansas lawyer whose name has been mentioned by prominent Republicans to serve out Cummins’ term.

No carrying charge

Word comes from Little Rock City Hall that Simon Property Group, more than five years late, has finally paid the $25,000 it promised to contribute to a University Avenue development study by the Urban Land Institute. Simon, which manages the decrepit and failing University Mall, stiffed the city on the debt after it lost its bid to build the new Summit Mall, on account of citizen opposition. City officials reminded Simon of the May 2001 bill at a recent meeting in Indianapolis over the sorry state of University Mall.

No, Simon paid no interest on the 63-month-late payment. You can bet one of their mall tenants would have added interest — $5,000 or so at 4 percent per annum — on a past-due account.

Tipping point

Subscribers to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette have been seeing a little something extra on their subscription invoices lately: a typed notation stating that because of the increase in gas prices, their paper carrier would appreciate tips.

D-G general manager Paul Smith said that the note was added recently as a way of helping out carriers, who are independent contractors. Carriers buy the paper at a wholesale rate, and then sell the paper to subscribers on their route. Smith said the wholesale rate varies from carrier to carrier based on the concentration of subscribers on their route, with carriers in rural areas paying less per paper than those in the city. Because they are independent contractors, Smith said the only way to raise the amount carriers make is to either raise the price of the paper, or ask for tips. Why not cut the wholesale rate? Said Smith: “After the carrier gets his cut, there is usually not enough left… to pay for the paper. We make all of our money on advertising,” he said. “If we reduce our wholesale rate, we’re going to go in the hole more on the cost of the newspaper. It’s just a matter of economics.”

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