Favorite

Legislative influence peddling 

The Times’ Jennifer Reed reported last week on the supplier of a private jet that took Gov. Mike Huckabee and entourage on a recent presidential exploratory journey that was interrupted by engine trouble and an emergency landing.

The supplier was Ted Suhl, director of the Lord’s Ranch, a residential mental health treatment center for youths in Warm Springs, and there hangs a tale.

The Ranch had a series of disputes with the state before the Huckabee administration came along. The relationship has improved. The Lord’s Ranch now has an $8.5 million Medicaid contract and Suhl has been appointed by Huckabee to the Child Welfare Agency Review Board. The psychiatric director at the Lord’s Ranch also was named by Huckabee to the state Psychology Board.

When we reported this on our Arkansas Blog, readers came forward with more tips on Suhl’s political connections. We now know his giving extends beyond free gubernatorial charter service.

Suhl takes advantage of Arkansas’s lax campaign finance law (it allows corporate contributions) to contribute in the name of multiple corporate entities. This is hard to track by the secretary of state’s non-searchable database. But, at followthemoney.org, a public interest group has entered the Arkansas information into a database searchable back to 2000.

If you know where to look, the data show that Suhl and related entities have given more than $100,000 to Arkansas political causes since 2000. This includes $5,000 to Gov. Huckabee and his wife. It includes a whopping $26,000 to the Arkansas Republican Party. It includes $6,500 to the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage.

But here’s the real eye-opener: Suhl and related interests contributed at least $43,050 in 2004 to candidates for the Arkansas legislature and the Arkansas Republican Party. Most of the money was given in late November, after it was clear which candidates had won. Suhl papered the vital public health committees of the House and Senate with gifts. In number, more went to the more numerous Democrats than Republicans. But Suhl almost evened the score in dollars — $22,300 for Democrats to $20,750 for Republicans — by putting $13,000 into the Republican Party. Suhl’s paid lobbyist was Ron Fuller, the governor’s chief money raiser.

Were the contributions intended to influence the 2005 legislature? They didn’t hurt. Despite some concern about the cost and effectiveness of residential treatment centers, Suhl’s ranch (and other residential centers) enjoyed exponential budget growth.

As we go to press, an unrelated legislative committee was planning to try again to push for more community-based mental health treatment and more accountability for residential treatment centers. The number of Arkansas kids in residential treatment is double the number expected in a state our size. It’s about the same as the number in Ohio, a state four times our size. State spending on mental health treatment for children has jumped from $100 million to $200 million in four years, the majority of it going to residential treatment centers. There’s inadequate certification and oversight, critics say. Also, residential treatment doesn’t include important family therapy that community-based mental health programs can provide for much less money, while keeping families together. We wonder, too, about the degree of religious instruction at the Lord’s Ranch and its need for a jet aircraft. Are we financing a self-enriching religious program with public dollars?

Suhl won’t talk to us. Rep. Buddy Blair, who hopes to raise some of these questions at a committee hearing scheduled after we go to press, says that previous efforts to look into this operation ran into constant roadblocks from other legislators. Suhl’s campaign contributions might explain why.


Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

    Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.
  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
  • Hating the media

    Presidents, with the exception of George Washington, never found much joy with the media, although Donald Trump is the first to use the scarily freighted words "enemies of the people."
  • What's new and coming soon to Argenta

    A riverfront hotel, new residential development, food, drink and more.
  • Downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock are back in business

    Main Street and beyond bustles.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries

Event Calendar

« »

February

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  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Arkansas voters know what they want

    • Oh, they're doing the jobs they are paid to do. But first we must ask…

    • on February 26, 2017
  • Re: Stand up for Little Rock

    • Just tell us the whole deal like we were little children with no understanding. I…

    • on February 26, 2017
  • Re: Arkansas voters know what they want

    • It is inappropriate for disgruntled legislators to take revenge upon the citizens of the state…

    • on February 25, 2017
 

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