Votes for sale -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Votes for sale -- UPDATE

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 9:36 AM

When your principles are sold cheap, why bother with $25 gifts to fellow legislators?

I refer to state Rep. Robbie Wills, mentioned earlier today for stretching campaign finance law to use contributions to his unopposed re-election campaign to mount a race to be House speaker in 2009. Among the uses: buying little thank-you gifts for House colleagues.

Now I have before me an invitation to a fund-raising luncheon Thursday at the Poultry Federation for incumbent Rep. Bryan King of Green Forest.

Wills, a Democrat, is delivering his good name at the top of the "legislative host committee" for the fund-raiser. King is a Republican of the deepest red hue. He's demagogued the domestic partnership registry in Eureka Springs, joined the tiny rump group that wouldn't vote for the severance tax and is generally a reliable voice of irrationality on the usual hot button topics when he's not carrying water for the Poultry Federation, his primary duty.

But that's not all. He has a Democratic opponent, David Stoppel, who, I'm told, enjoys strong support from local Democrats, if not from the rising House speaker. Wills  has undoubtedly loaned his name here in return for King's support in the speaker's race.

Wills is by no means the only traitor to party.

Of 18 hosts, 12 are Democrats -- Wills, Bill Abernathy, Larry Cowling, Billy Gaskill, Eddie Hawkins, Johnny Hoyt, Barry Hyde, Robert Moore, Bobby Pierce, Lance Reynolds, John Paul Wells and David Wyatt.

What will they get in return when the really tough rolls are called? I can tell you. The usual Republican tripe is what they'll get.

UPDATE: I've spoken with Rep. Wills. He said, in this case, he'd committed to help King in return for his support in the speaker's race before King knew he had an opponent. When one developed, he said King called him, but Wills said he'd given his word and insisted on following through. He said he and King were rarely together politically, but he'd found King to be a man of his word.

On the earlier issue, on spending of campaign money on the speaker's race, Wills said 1) he'd reviewed the issue with the Ethics Commission before going ahead 2) he'd spent some of the money on his race, not solely on the speaker's race 3) he'd opted for full transparency on spending, which he saw as an improvement on some previous speaker's races where candidates with personal resources and friends spent heavily and 4) he was sure he met the letter of the law.

Perhaps so. If so, and if the races for speaker and president pro tem are to become real elections with significant expenditures of money (that seems likely given the political influence the speaker particularly now enjoys), it might be time to think about required disclosure of all related expenditures and contributions.


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