Was there ever a more graceless leaving of office than Mike Huckabee’s? The now-former governor indulged in all the worst aspects of his administration – willfulness, spitefulness, secrecy, disregard for the law. He very nearly sank to the level of other Republican presidential candidates.
Evidently without consulting legislators, his Cabinet, or anyone else who knows something of the law and state budgeting, Huckabee ordered that money appropriated by the legislature for other purposes be given instead to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Under the governor’s plan, the money would have been used for cancer research and the endowment of a faculty position named for a UAMS physician who helped Huckabee lose a considerable amount of weight. The proposed naming was an inordinate show of admiration for the physician. Under Huckabee, things usually got named for him or his wife.
Legislators questioned the legality of Huckabee’s proposal and even Alan Sugg, president of the University of Arkansas System, suggested that it might be best to obtain legislative approval in the session that was only a few days away. Huckabee threw a fit, rescinded the transfer of money to UAMS, ordered that the funds be used for other, non-medical purposes, and assailed Sugg for exercising good judgment. In a letter to the UA president, Huckabee said the money would have been used for “noble and worthy projects” and saved many lives. “But your reluctance to accept these funds due to a small number of legislative detractors makes it necessary to take this action.”
Why necessary, one asks. Are lives any less worth saving if it’s done legally? State Sen. Jim Argue said of Huckabee’s behavior, “It’s a shame the governor ends on this angry, punitive note.”
Shortly after the fund-transfer incident, it was learned that before leaving office, Huckabee had used up the governor’s emergency fund, in part to destroy computer hard drives in the governor’s office. That left the new governor, Mike Beebe, with no emergency money for the last six months of the fiscal year. It left everyone else with questions about the destruction of state property, and whatever was on those hard drives that Huckabee was so desperate to conceal. The emergency fund is used in cases of disaster, tornadoes and the like. The governor’s concern for saving lives had subsided, apparently, or at least been given a lower priority than concealing information from the public. Maybe Huckabee had learned from Richard Nixon, who neglected to destroy the evidence and paid a price.
The Huckabee administration had its accomplishments – ARKids, auto-registration reform, a new emphasis on protecting public health, among others. Huckabee’s final blow-up will make them harder to remember.