Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times has been digging deep on the question of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s use (read: abuse) of legal settlement funds, as we’ve covered here on The Arkansas Project.
To catch you up: Earlier this week, the AG announced he would award $700,000 in funds derived from a legal settlement with pharmaceutical companies to the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Foundation. McDaniel touted the news in a painfully lengthy video address (see above) at an ASP awards lunch. The video cost an estimated $6,000.
As a footnote, I asked the AG’s office if how the video production was funded: Was it paid for with settlement funds or from the AG’s office budget? McDaniel’s spokesman confirmed that the video will be paid for from settlement funds.
It’s hard to see how this promotional video squares with the actual legal language in the settlement agreement:
The State of Arkansas’s portion of this payment shall be deposited into the Attorney General’s Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund and held in trust there to be used by the Attorney General in his discretion to further efforts to investigate and prosecute consumer protection, environmental, public utilities and antitrust matters, and to educate consumers regarding such matters.
I’ve asked the AG office for an explanation as to how the video is consistent with the language of the settlement, which seems to clearly dictate that the funds should be used “to investigate and prosecute consumer protection, environmental, public utilities and antitrust matters, and to educate consumers regarding such matters.”
If the AG office’s interpretation is that it has the authority to spend these funds at its complete discretion, how is this any different from saying it can spend the money however it wants—not constrained at all by any settlement language?
I’m awaiting the explanation and will update when it’s received.
UPDATE: Here’s the terse and unilluminating response from the AG’s spokesman: “The Attorney General believes this distribution is consistent with the language in the consent judgment.” Well, OK, then! That settles that. No further questions! Case closed! See you next week for another exciting episode of…The Arkansas Project !