Favorite

Don't need Darr, don't need the office, either 

Mindful of the great injunction that Republicans not speak ill of one another, Arkansas GOP leaders embraced Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's own explanation for converting some $44,000 of public and campaign funds to his own use: He is not a crook, they said, but just a poor fellow who is in over his head. He didn't know it was against the law to convert public funds and political cash to his personal use.

The lieutenant governor wades in very shallow water. When he's in over his head, you have a big problem. Arkansas has a lieutenant governor for one reason: to be ready to come to Little Rock and be the governor for a spell if the governor dies, becomes incapacitated or is removed from office. If Darr can't grasp the simplest rules for being a public servant he isn't suited to be even a governor in waiting.

So Darr should resign. Republicans clamored for state Treasurer Martha Shoffner to resign when, needing cash to maintain an apartment in Little Rock so she would not have to travel from her home in Newport every day, she solicited $6,000 from an investment adviser who got state business through her office. But as of this writing not one Republican has called for Darr to resign. They demanded that state Sen. Paul Bookout, a Democrat, resign for converting campaign money to his personal use, but Darr is different.

Both Shoffner and Bookout resigned. Leaders of the Democratic Party had demanded it.

Darr said last week that he would not resign and might even run for re-election. He did drop out of the race for Congress last summer after a Democratic blogger reported his wrongdoing.

But, in the end, Darr will have to resign, especially if the state Ethics Commission — half Republican, half Democratic — adopts the findings of its professionals. Before the ethics staff released its findings, the legislative audit staff confirmed the blogger's report that Darr had illegally taken state travel expenses.

Friday morning, the thoroughly Republican Arkansas Democrat-Gazette finally suggested that Darr resign. It had raged repeatedly against Shoffner and Bookout, so its silence on the Darr matter had become deafening. When the Democrat-Gazette weighs in editorially against a Republican, it must seem like the sky is falling.

To Republicans, you must assume, Darr's troubles just look like politics. After all, a liberal Democratic blogger, Matt Campbell, had targeted him and rummaged through his campaign-finance reports and the invoices of the lieutenant governor's office. So the story had a suspicious genesis.

But Shoffner's troubles began with the liberal Arkansas Times blog, which reported the sudden and inexplicable shift in investment advisers in the treasurer's office. Sen. Bookout's troubles began with a Republican critic's snooping into his campaign reports.

Darr's resignation should be forthcoming, but that won't entirely solve the problem. It would be a mild but worthy reform if the state used this chance to abolish the office. It would save the taxpayers a little money every year and create a more sensible succession when something happens to the state's elected chief executive. The Constitutional Convention of 1970 created a better succession, but voters defeated the document, for reasons other than scrapping the lieutenant governor.

Arkansas did not have a lieutenant governor until after the debacle of 1907, when Gov. John S. Little suffered a nervous breakdown soon after his inauguration and went home, creating a wild scramble that led to two temporary governors. So voters created the position of lieutenant governor, who would be elected statewide but lie doggo until the day when the state didn't have a governor. Needing to give him some menial task, the law empowered him to preside over the Senate in the occasional periods, some 40 or days a year, when it is in session. The U.S. Constitution gave the vice president that power, although vice presidents almost never exercise it.

The lieutenant governor isn't needed for that either. On days when the lieutenant governor doesn't come in, the president of the Senate or another member presides and it runs smoothly. If the lieutenant governor doesn't show up, absolutely nothing is lost.

Nathan Gordon, the Medal of Honor hero, was the ultimate lieutenant governor for nearly a quarter-century after World War II. He ran the Senate, had no staff, took a salary of $2,500 a year and rarely set foot in the Capitol when the legislature was not in session. When his law practice demanded he be in trial in Morrilton or someplace he called in and the Senate pro tem sat in the big chair. When Gordon quit, the Senate stripped the lieutenant governor of all his authority except recognizing which senator was to speak and ordering roll calls.

When Mike Huckabee became the lite governor he wanted the office to be special. He got suitable quarters in the Capitol, beefed up the staff, although they had nothing to do but tend to his political connections, and arranged for travel perks.

Darr took it to a higher level. The office budget soared to $400,000 a year, his salary to $41,896. Four executive assistants, who knock down $350,000 among them, issue statements for him, like the one praising Exxon Mobil for its handling of the giant oil spill in Mayflower.

You know what happens with idle hands, which may be poor Mark Darr's best defense. We should remove the risk and end the office.

Favorite

Speaking of Mark Darr

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Attack the poor

    If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Nixon's EPA

    Poor Richard Nixon would be so hurt, and baffled. He went to his grave knowing that while his historical reputation was in tatters owing to the deceptions and corruption of Watergate, he at least could lay claim to a few of the great advances in human rights in Western history.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Trumpcare

    Ignorance may not exactly be bliss, President Trump and a lot of other politicians are discovering, but it is a good operating model as long as wisdom doesn't rear its ugly head.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Attack the poor

    If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Nixon's EPA

    Poor Richard Nixon would be so hurt, and baffled. He went to his grave knowing that while his historical reputation was in tatters owing to the deceptions and corruption of Watergate, he at least could lay claim to a few of the great advances in human rights in Western history.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Trumpcare

    Ignorance may not exactly be bliss, President Trump and a lot of other politicians are discovering, but it is a good operating model as long as wisdom doesn't rear its ugly head.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Worse than N.C.'s bathroom bill

    SB 774 extends birth certificate requirement to bathrooms in all public facilities, and that's an original birth certificate, too.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: More on pits

    • Of course you don't care. If you cared, you might want to find a solution…

    • on March 24, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Enough! I don't care if it is the dog or the human factor. The end…

    • on March 24, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Well, news article require facts, something the Lyin's isn't too good about. As for opinion,…

    • on March 24, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation