Favorite

Talk is cheap 

Republican Jim Keet's long-shot mission to beat popular Gov. Mike Beebe requires him to churn up an issue a week to grab some free media.

His ill-considered alliance with the bitter-enders trying to prevent merger of the undersized Weiner School District is one example. Guest writer Rick Fahr, a Weiner alum, makes the case for consolidation in this week's Times. Such thoughtfulness was lacking in Keet's rush to find a school issue to stir enthusiasm among rural folks.

I was more favorably struck when Keet unveiled an ethics platform last week. Among his ideas:

• A two-year cooling-off period before former legislators and constitutional officers' staff members could become lobbyists.

• Limiting legislative per diem to actual expenses, supported by receipts. This would end a practice that has turned into a $25,000-plus salary supplement for many lawmakers.

• Reimbursement of legislative travel capped at the "lowest cost reasonable alternative." No more loading up the family wagon with Ma and the younguns and billing the state by the mile for circuitous road trips with a stop for a conference along the way.

• Holding public officials to the same reimbursement standards as state employees.

• An end to multipliers for state officials' retirement. No more double-counting of legislative service, for example.

These are good ideas — some of them beaten down by lawmakers before. I'd fault the list only for the omission of a proposal to end lobbyist expenditures on legislators for food, drink, recreation, travel or anything else. Lobbyist entertainment may be the most corrupting practice at the Capitol. All efforts to regulate it have failed; the only solution is to outlaw it.

A veteran legislator — and an ethical one, at that — wasn't so impressed with Keet's announcement, however. He told me the ideas are non-starters at the legislature and Keet knows it. To him, Keet's ethics package is just cheap grandstanding. Were Keet a serious contender for election, it might hold some meaning, he says. It will take a strong and committed governor — working with the legislature — to achieve ethics reform. Even then, it will be a hard sell to the sticky-fingered legislature. An initiated act would be a better vehicle and who's going to do that?

I know this is a sound evaluation of the political realities of ethics reform. But it seems to me an utter surrender to cynicism to respond to sound — if difficult — goals by seeing them only as the cheap grandstanding of a candidate desperate for attention. Might you give life to such ideas by endorsing them? Might they be a reason to give a candidate a second look?

Who knows. If a candidate could actually inspire a continuing debate on such a worthy topic as ethics, it might even prompt a powerful incumbent opponent to adopt some of these ideas as his own. As tightly wired as Mike Beebe is to the lobby culture from his decades in the Senate, it seems a stretch, I admit. Ethics were low on his first-term agenda, for sure. But you never know.

There's also this: I think we are heading to a sea change in the partisan makeup of the Arkansas legislature. If the growing Republican cadre adopts ethics as a battle cry, Democrats might dismiss this so-called cheap grandstanding at their peril.

Until now, legislators have mostly been right about the public's disinterest in stricter ethics laws. But they can get interested. Ask Land Commissioner Mark Wilcox, he of the two state vehicles, recently rudely treated by voters.

Favorite

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

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

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Kids count, not confidentiality

    The trial for the murder of Isaiah Torres, 6, was a reminder again of a gaping hole in the law pertaining to child protective services.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Fixing blame: President Trump

    Did the press fail? Were liberal-leaning journalists on the coasts responsible for missing the Trump wave among middle-to-lower income white voters with lower educational attainment?
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Can we get along?

    he Times production deadline fell before polls closed this week, so I'll look to the past and future.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

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 Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • And loyal, to a fault.

    • on December 6, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

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