Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Asa Hutchinson: Do politics or his private security business come first?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 6:00 PM

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Given that guns are holy sacraments in Arkansas, this story might not have the impact in Arkansas it might have other places. But even gun lovers know a conflict of interest when they see one.

It was already well-known that Asa Hutchinson, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, was a shill for the National Rifle Association. He's the man they employed put a former Bush administration face on their response to the Sandy Hook school slaughter. The response, as you know, was more guns and less gun control as the solution to gun violence.

But now Mother Jones has raised a new issue: Is Asa lobbying for security industry money as much as for guns?

Unmentioned when the NRA made Hutchinson poster boy for more guns was this:

Hutchinson sits on the board of directors of Pinkerton Government Services, a subsidiary of one of the nation's largest private security contractors, Securitas. And if the NRA's—and Hutchinson's—proposals are enacted into law, Securitas, a firm Hutchinson once lobbied for in Washington, could stand to score big.

Hutchinson's private security connections were first reported by Sally Jo Sorensen of the progressive blog Bluestem Prairie. As Sorensen noted, Securitas paid Hutchinson and the firm he worked for, Venable LLC, $200,000 for lobbying services in 2006. (Hutchinson also lobbied on behalf of Point Blank Body Armor in 2007 and 2008.)

Over the last three weeks, Hutchinson has made an evolving case for LaPierre's agenda in a series of interviews and op-eds. After first suggesting that it might be possible to staff schools with armed volunteers, he offered a pricier proposal in an op-ed for the Arkansas Democrat–Gazette on Friday: "A part of this solution will be the increased presence of trained, armed and professional security officers in schools."

Got it. Hutchinson is using his prominence in Arkansas and as NRA shill to break into the largest newspaper in the state with a message that could conceivably mean huge amounts of work for an industry that employs him.

He, of course, has an explanation.

"I am not aware that PGS provides any school security services," he said in an email. "I have no connection to Securitas as I am a proxy board member under Department of Defense guidelines to assure that there is no foreign influence or control over PGS. There are some very specific legislative and regulatory requirements in reference to my work as a proxy board member."

Oh, but PGS DOES have a subsidiary that trains security officers of all kinds. And its mother company DOES provide security guards at hundreds of schools. Coincidentally.

Hutchinson's potential conflicts of interest aside, Mother Jones notes:

…there's also little evidence that armed guards are an effective deterrent to school shooters. Columbine High School had an armed guard in 1999 when two shooters murdered 12 students and a teacher. Virginia Tech had the equivalent to a SWAT team on campus in 2007, when a gunman killed 32 students and injured 17 others. The NRA has also run into opposition from unlikely allies like the American Federation of Teachers and NRA-endorsed Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

The article reminds me that Hutchinson, to date, has had no sort of searching examination of his finances as some previous gubernatorial candidates have endured. Democrat Mike Ross has been through the wringer himself on sale of his pharmacy and his brief position with a power grid operation also got attention.

When the general election comes, it should be time for a full income-tax return disclosure for both candidates, of the sort that Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker and Sheffield Nelson once were given. Whatever did become of that sweetheart penny stock deal that Hutchinson landed thanks to his Bush administration years, a little ol' deal that he somehow forgot to report on his first public filing?

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