Happy days are here again | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy days are here again

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2006 at 4:35 PM

What would Huey Long say if he could read about the Mike Beebe inaugural. Every man might be a king, but only those with cash will get near the crown.

There's no invite in our mailbox yet, but a Blog reader reads to us an e-mail received concerning the Jan. 9 inaugural ball. We can't testify to its authenticity, but it sounds reliable.


I don’t know the location of the event, but the e-mail from finance boss Beth Coulson is seeking big spenders to attend the event, which will be a fund-raiser for the non-federal account of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. (The prices should be sufficient even to clear Jason Willett's restaurant tabs.)


This is legal, by the way, based on my understanding of previous inaugural events and a check with state ethics officials. The party can raise money for inaugural events, and use the inaugural for its own fund-raising event. It simply must disclose contributors and expernses in its quarterly filings.


The eventual contribution list should read like a Who’s Who of the 2007 legislative lobbying corps.


For $25,000, platinum sponsors get four tickets to a private reception with the governor; 20 tickets to a reserved table at the ball.


Gold sponsors get two reception tickets for $15,000 plus 15 tickets to reserved seating at the ball (not a table).


For $10,000, the silver sponsors get 10 tickets to reserved seating.


Bronze gets five reserved seats for $5,000.


Patrons get two tickets to the ball (no seats) for $2,000.  


The rest of us will be behind the LR mounted patrol on the cold sidewalks, or perhaps herded briefly onto a press platform for a fleeting glimpse of the waltzing swells.


By way of comparison: when Mike Huckabee was inaugurated to a second term in 2003, press accounts said a $125 ticket bought access to dinner and the ball. But there were bulk packages ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 that included a VIP reception and multiple tickets. Some of the proceeds paid for ball gown and accessories for the first lady.


The event prompted an ethics hubbub after Republican officials wrote a letter saying that they couldn’t get money out of the inaugural account for GOP party expenses from Brenda Turner, Huckabee’s chief of staff. Huckabee’s apparent control of the money prompted an ethics complaint by me over nondisclosure, dismissed by the Ethics Commission after Huckabee gave a differing account of control than he and other officials had originally given reporters. The commission also dismissed Huckabee’s complaint that I had filed a frivolous complaint. Oh, those were the days. But it looks like more fun lies ahead.


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