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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The new GOP majority: Ease ethics rule in House

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 7:11 AM

click to enlarge 30 PIECES OF SILVER: Westerman wants to keep it flowing.
  • 30 PIECES OF SILVER: Westerman wants to keep it flowing.
The Arkansas House, but not the Senate, struck a blow for ethics years ago by adopting a rule preventing campaign fund-raising while the legislature was in session, and for a brief blackout period before and after.

The Senate has the rule for regular sessions, but not fiscal sessions, which occur in election years.

Yesterday Republican Majority Leader Bruce Westerman asked for clarification of the rule. He's running for Congress. Can he raise money for his federal campaign while in session?

Answer: No.

Clarification: He wasn't asking for clarification, he was throwing the weight of his position into lobbying for a change so the special interest money can keep rolling without cease into his 4th District race. It's so much handier, too. Sometimes the money is slipped discreetly from lobbyist to favored legislator in the very marble halls where that representative might be voting on matters of interest to that special interest.

Standing by hopefully: Republican Rep. Ann Clemmer, who's also running for Congress in the 2nd District. Also members of the House facing contested races this year.

Banning contributions during legislative sessions lends at least an appearance of ethical standards to members of the legislature. It's still the barest of fig leafs — see campaign carryovers for incumbents, "ticketed event" perversions of use of campaign money and lots more.

Before it's done — in the name of putative fairness — they just might suspend the rule entirely for ALL members of the House, thus sinking to the Senate's lower standard of ethical accountability.

Fine. Just don't let anybody tell you about the fresh new day of Arkansas politics under Republican rule. Smells like the same old sewer to me. Brought to you by "30 Piece of Gold" Westerman, who famously inveighed against special interests in opposing better health insurance coverage for the working poor of Arkansas.

I have to laugh, too, at Westerman invoking a Federal Election Commission opinion as saying state bans on campaign contributions during sessions runs afoul of federal rules. What? Rep. Westerman hasn't heard of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. Call Rep. Bob Ballinger for a brush-up, Bruce.

UPDATE: The Democratic Party issues a statement:

“It’s appalling that Rep. Westerman would make such a blatant self-serving political move. Rep. Westerman should be ashamed for trying to change the rules to help move ahead his political career instead of focusing on the issues that really make a difference in the lives of Arkansans. If this is how he plans to govern if he is elected to Congress, Arkansans better watch their back.”

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