Sleaze watch 

You thought Republican control of the legislature would change things? Evidence to the contrary follows that we dug up last week on the Arkansas Blog:

First there was Sen. Missy Irvin holding a fund-raiser at a luxury Little Rock condo (for reelection to her seat based in remote Stone County). The Senate rules allow in-session fundraising. House rules don't. But even some of the sleazier members of the Senate recognize the ill-appearance of sticking a hand out to lobbyists while the voting machine is operating. Lobbyists packed Irvin's fund-raiser.

Irvin defended herself by saying the legislature is only passing budget bills, not setting policy. This, on the eve of the most critical policy vote in years, continuation of Medicaid expansion. Irvin, wife of a prosperous doctor, is an opponent.

Then there was former Sen. Gilbert Baker, who left the legislature through an ethics loophole at the end of 2012 to become a $132,000 lobbyist for the University of Central Arkansas. It's higher pay for essentially a job he already had, bundling campaign contributions for Republican candidates and like-minded judicial candidates.

While in the legislature, Baker was paid $60,000 a year by the shadowy Faith and Freedom Coalition to use its secretively raised money to pump $200,000 into electing the Republican majority. Now he gets more than twice the pay and all from the public teat.

Baker was point man on a recent $100,000 haul for Republican House candidate Stacy Hurst of Little Rock. He's been tapping friends in the nursing home industry, developed during his on-the-floor work for tort reform, for this and judicial races. He helped Rhonda Wood of Conway, an Arkansas Supreme Court candidate, who got at least $70,000 of the $132,000 she reported in her first finance report from the nursing home industry. The money came in bundles, with multiple contributions from different corporate entities of the same parent, such as Michael Morton of Fort Smith. Morton contributed heavily to Wood, but other nursing home friends did most of the heavy lifting in providing a third of the campaign contributions of Conway Court of Appeals candidate Michael Maggio. Maggio gave a Morton nursing home a whopping $4 million reduction in a $5 million unanimous jury verdict for the suffering of a patient who died after his nursing home failed to follow a physician's instructions for hospital admission. Maggio, a circuit judge, said the verdict "shocked the conscience." This is the kind of conscience that nursing homes and Gilbert Baker want on the court.

UCA President Tom Courtway told me he saw no problem with Baker's bundling as long as Baker works on his own time — whatever that means. Baker doesn't work on a time clock. Schmoozing the legislature is his primary reason for public employment. Where does representing UCA end and representing another lobby begin?

Democrats raised hell about the disclosure of Baker's activities and even held up the UCA budget for a day. Courtway has promised a new and cleaner day at scandal-plagued UCA. But I'm skeptical there will be much change in the behavior of the UCA-paid advocate for nursing home and Republican interests.

I think Baker's activities reflect a general Republican view that their total domination of Arkansas politics is at hand. They will be the sole deciders of what is proper in the political arena. Courtway, to keep UCA money flowing, has no choice, but to go along. Ethics and appearances don't count. Only the bottom line.


Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • 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

Most Shared

  • LR Central student scores perfect on ACT

    The Little Rock School District announced yesterday that Karina Bao, a senior at Little Rock Central High School, had scored a perfect 36 composite score on the four-part ACT test, an achievement by less than a tenth of one percent of the 2.1 million who took the test.
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


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

  • The politics of opportunity

    Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
  • The end is near

    Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter if Donald Trump accepts the results of the November election.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Confrontation vs. innovation

    • Do you need Personal Loan? Business Cash Loan? Unsecured Loan Fast and Simple Loan? Quick…

    • on October 28, 2016
  • Re: Football and foster kids

    • I think Bart Hester just hates tax dollars being spent anywhere for anything.

    • on October 27, 2016
  • Re: The politics of opportunity

    • Maybe we need to revive a grassroots movement to have (1) nonpartisan redistricting (2)Top two…

    • on October 27, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation