Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
1. She has a sketchy job record with little relevant experience. Since graduating from law school in 2001, she's had at least nine jobs, lasting two years or more at only two. Apart from 14 months as a deputy prosecutor in Lonoke County, a few months in private practice in Jacksonville and her establishment of a personal law firm in Little Rock when she returned from Washington after the 2012 election, her jobs have almost entirely been in service of partisan politics (for national Republican groups and Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign) or government positions she landed through nepotism (as law clerk for family friend Jo Hart, when Hart was on the Court of Appeals, and as deputy counsel for the Huckabee administration, in which her father served as drug czar). Although Huckabee has endorsed her for attorney general, she only lasted 10 months working for him as governor and left for a lower-paying job. A former staffer has told the Times controversy surrounded her departure.
2. One of the largest state agencies, which she would represent as attorney general, wouldn't rehire her. Following her resignation, after 14 months, as staff counsel for the Division of Children and Family Services for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, agency officials put her on a "do not rehire" list because of "gross misconduct." DHS files contain accounts of Rutledge mishandling cases. An examination of her personnel file is limited by state law, but Rutledge could allow records to be released. She's refused.
3. She doesn't think there's anything wrong with forwarding a racist email. Perhaps a hint at what "gross misconduct" might mean: While working at DHS, she forwarded an email written in grotesquely offensive dialect. A sample passage: "baby's momma done turn into a ho and a stripper an she be raisin' fusses and kickin' and bitin' and whoopin dis man ..." After releasing a statement saying she'd merely forwarded the email "without comment," she told a TV reporter that whether one sees racist overtones in the email is determined by "the heart of the reader." She also said several "black individuals" told her the email sounded like "country talk." That she could make such a statement alone should discredit her for public office.
4. She supported Arkansas's unconstitutional voter ID law, committed voter fraud herself and was tossed from voter rolls for being simultaneously registered to vote in three states. Before the Arkansas Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, Rutledge pledged to defend Arkansas's voter ID law. In the May primary, the law disenfranchised more than 1,000 Arkansas absentee voters whose ballots would have been counted if not for the unnecessary and politically contrived law. One vote that shouldn't have been counted? Rutledge's in 2008. After moving to work for the Huckabee presidential campaign, she registered to vote July 3, 2008, as a permanent resident of Washington, D.C. Then on Sept. 15, 2008, she requested an Arkansas ballot to vote absentee in the 2008 general election. She had to affirmatively swear on the absentee ballot application: "I reside within the county in which I am registered to vote." Her explanation? She said she voted where she knew she was registered. Rutledge's voter history came under scrutiny after Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane canceled Rutledge's voter registration after learning she was simultaneously registered to vote in Pulaski County, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va.
5. When she screws up, it's always someone else's fault. She has suggested her poor review at DHS was politically motivated, even though in 2007, when she held the job, she was politically unknown. She refused to apologize for forwarding a racist email, calling reporting on it a "desperate attempt by leftist bloggers to misattribute someone else's words to me." After Crane followed the law and canceled her voter registration — which simply meant that she had to reregister — she said he had "displayed a total lack of integrity by using desperate Chicago-style, partisan politics to disenfranchise me ... in an attempt to illegally secure the election for the Democratic Party." She also scurrilously said Crane had violated state and election law.
6. All she wants to do is fight the feds. Like many in her party, she has tried to distill her campaign message to one word — "Obama." Also like many in her party, she's running for an office that has little to do with the federal government. We'd be tempted to write this off as cynical campaigning, a lesser sin than forgetting the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (hint: it's what keeps the United States united). But Rutledge gives every sign that, if elected, she'll focus on fighting every federal law and regulation she objects to.
7. She coordinated with a dark money group. When a 501(c)(4) "stealth" PAC went after her during the Republican primary, she called the ads "manipulative" and "the worst of dirty politics." She also said anyone who didn't denounce the ads was "dishonest." So when the Center for Individual Freedom — a secretive 501(c)(4) nonprofit with a history of spending money to protect rich people's ability to contribute unlimited amounts in secret to political campaigns — pumped $1.8 million into attacking her opponent, Democrat Nate Steel, she denounced the group, right? Nope. She even went a step farther with the Republican Attorney Generals Association, a tax-exempt 527 Super PAC whose mission is to support Republican candidates financially and with message support. Federal law bars 527s from coordinating advertising with candidates, but Rutledge appeared in one of the group's ads. She maintains state law allows it. Though the ad didn't include any "express advocacy" words (such as "vote for" Rutledge), the value of it to Rutledge should surely be required to be reported as a campaign contribution and the laws on contribution limits and disclosure of donors should apply. The Arkansas Ethics Commission is currently investigating the matter, though it won't rule before the election.
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