Arkansas Democrats love ethics. In fact, they love ethics so much, three of their state elected officials have been forced to resign from office in the last year — one for a felony, another for a felony, and another, well, for the felony act of voter fraud (and he supports ethics reform, too!). All of these scandals have forced Democrats to go on the offensive regarding ethics reform and transparency, announcing a new ethics caucus last month.
(You can read about some of their efforts posturing here from my colleague Dan Greenberg, and here from myself.)
A month after the announcement of their bold ethics plan, I’d love to be able to tell you that legislative Democrats have actually crafted an ethics plan. But they haven’t. Instead, they’ve issued another press release that floats a few ideas for reform and “invites” Republicans to work with them to craft a “legislative ethics package” — which makes me think these legislators are more interested in political games and less interested in reform.
One of the ideas floated in the latest release is “ending the practice of using campaign funds for ticketed political events.” In fact, the release says that Senator Bruce Maloch and Rep. Warwick Sabin sponsored a bill in the recent legislative session “that would have ended the practice of using campaign funds for ticketed political events” — events which are essentially money laundering schemes from one campaign to another.
Oddly, however, Senator Maloch’s carryover fund report shows he attended a ticketed event for Mike Ross for Governor in June:
Apparently, Senator Maloch doesn’t take his own bill — or the platform of the ethics caucus he is a member of — very seriously.
By the sheerest of coincidences, nearly every one of the House members of the Democrat “ethics caucus” — including their chairman Rep. Brent Talley — also recently hosted a ticketed event for their colleague Rep. Nate Steel (D-Nashville) who is running for Attorney General. To be clear: the Steel event was on Thursday night. Their press release decrying ticketed events went out yesterday, just a few days later.
Members of the ethics caucus include Rep. Mary Broadaway (D-Paragould), Rep. Harold Copenhaver (D-Jonesboro), Rep. George McGill (D-Ft. Smith), Rep. James Ratliff (D-Imboden), Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood), Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock), Rep. Brent Talley (D- Hope), Rep. Marshall Wright (D- Forrest City), Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) and Sen. Bruce Maloch (D-Magnolia). Every single one of these members was a host for the Steel event, except Rep. Nickels.
And, as a special bonus, another ticketed Steel event is being held this Thursday in Jonesboro. Two members of the ethics caucus — Reps. Broadaway and Copenhaver — are sponsors of the event.
In Monday’s release, Chairman Talley said he’s been working “diligently to review current ethics policy and where our laws fall short of maintaining the public’s trust in Arkansas’ government.” But the failings of politicians in Arkansas have not been failures of the law — they have been failures of people and character. Under Rep. Talley’s leadership, it looks like that trend will continue.
(Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman also weighed in on Monday with some of his thoughts on ethics reform. You can read his statement here.)