Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why we need ethics reform

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 10:55 AM

BEHOLDEN: Bart Hester, Republican candidate for Senate, has raised $37,000 of his $88,000 from a single family.
  • ALL IN THE FAMILY: Bart Hester, Republican candidate for Senate, has raised $37,000 of his $88,000 from a single family.
I've written before about the many reasons why I hope an ethics reform initiative being pushed by Regnat Populus 2012 makes the ballot and is adopted. We need to wean state legislators off lobbyists' wining and dining credit cards, for one thing.

But, for another, we need to end the sham by which a single person or family can easily circumvent limits on political campaign contributions. The initiated act would end direct corporate contributions.

Case in point: The Republican primary race for a Benton County Senate seat between Rep. Tim Summers and Bart Hester. Summers, judging by his voting record, is a doctrinaire Republican. But ... He once was a Democrat, instant cause of suspicion among Republican fire breathers. Hester is a Tea Party dream, an automatic vote for the no-tax, no-regulation agenda. You may judge him by his supporters, from Jim Lindsey and Jim Bob Duggar on.

But particularly judge him by the fact that he's also a Koch-head.

He gets tireless support from Teresa Oelke of Rogers and her acolytes. Oelke is the paid head of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity chapter in Arkansas. But in Hester's case, the support is about more than Oelke and her Koch connection. Teresa Crossland Oelke was born into the Crossland construction business and her husband is part of the organization. (Among other things, they've scored Obama stimulus project contracts even as Oelke heaps abuse on the Obama stimulus program.)

But get a load of the Oelke/Crossland influence on the Hester race:

Contributions from them individually or companies in which the family has an interest, according to secretary of state filings and web sources that reveal family ties:

Contractors Equipment of Joplin, $2,000; Crossland Construction of Joplin, $1,000; Crossland Heavy Contractors of Columbus, Kan., $2,000; Crossland Holding Companies of Columbus, $2,000; Oelke Construction of Rogers, $2,000; Rogers Warehouse Development, $2,000; Crossland Construction of Rogers, $2,000; Benny Crossland of Joplin, $1,000; Christopher Crossland of Rogers, $2,000; Patrick Crossland of Columbus, $2,000; Crossmar Investments Investments, $1,000; ICJ real estate holdings of Rogers, $2,000; 8th Street Warehouse of Rogers, $2,000; Parkway Real Estate Holdings of Rogers, $2,000; Rescue Heroes LLC of Columbus, $2,000; Ivan Crossland of Columbus, $2,000; Macy Crossland, $2,000; Crossmar DC III, $2,000; Crossmac Investments of Rogers, $2,000; Tim Oelke of Rogers, $2,000.

Through April 15, Hester reported raising about $88,000. Of that, it looks like about $37,000 (and who knows if this is all) came from the Crossland family, less than a third in individual contributions.

Corporations are people under current Arkansas law, even multiple identities of essentially the same owner. It's time to change that, no matter where you stand on Hester-Summers. Sign the Regat Populus petitions.

The Crosslands have even outstripped another fatcat fancy, the race between Sen. Joyce Elliott and Rep. Fred Allen, to represent a poor, black Senate district in central and southern Little Rock. There, Jackson T. Stephens Jr. of Edgehill Road and Jim Walton of the high-rent district in Bentonville have taken a high interest. They, or family or businesses they control, account for almost $13,000 of the $75,000 Allen had raised through April 15. It's not because they golf with Allen. Elliott will chair the Education Committee if re-elected. Stephens and Walton don't like her outlook on preservation of public school districts, as opposed to a balkanized system of have/have not charter schools.

Let's let the people rule, but $2,000 per person per election is enough, not multiples of that through corporate cutouts.

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