This is fresh air? | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This is fresh air?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 9:31 AM

The Blue Hog Report has taken an exhaustive look at Republican Rep. Mark Martin's lavish expense charges to the state of Arkansas. The GOP secretary of state nominee is a top tenner when it comes to expenses. He claims it's because he's a remote legislator from NW Ark., laboring so hard traveling back and forth for his constituents that he attends meetings of committees on which he doesn't sit.

It turns out that a big portion of Martin's taxpayer tab is a $1,350 monthly rental payment to Martin to rent office space in HIS OWN HOME from himself. CORRECTION: A spokesman for Martin says that, despite addresses listed in various public documents, his expense reimbursements are for renting space to himself from his business office in space he subleases from another business at 9310 Wagon Wheel Road in Springdale, not from his home in Prairie Grove.) Writes Blue Hog:

Now, as odd as it may sound, even that action is technically ok, if somewhat irritating. After all, the reimbursement statute allows each legislator to choose from three reimbursement levels — $5820 per year, $6540 per year, or $14400 per year.1 There is nothing in the statute that explains how a lawmaker should determine which reimbursement level he or she should select, but given that we are talking about “reimbursements,” a safe guess would be that legislators should choose the level that they anticipate will best cover their expenses (office rent, phone, supplies, etc.). It might boggle the mind to figure out how Martin could possibly owe himself $1350/month for a portion of his own home, but that action in and of itself is not improper.

The problem arises, however, when you start factoring in Martin’s activities as a candidate for Secretary of State.

For one thing, not only is 123 Pittman St. listed as the business address for Martin’s company and the address of Martin’s home-county office as a legislator, but it is also the physical address of Martin’s campaign headquarters according to some sources ...

Martin also has listed the same phone number for state and campaign purposes.

Blue Hog offers some potential squirm room that Martin might offer to justify his overlapping state and campaign efforts. Martin's campaign contends the overlapping phone numbers and addresses are just for recordkeeping purposes and don't cross any lines in terms of allowable activities.

But this is still one of those quack-like-a-duck deals. Statutory violations or not, Martin is running a pocket-lining racket at taxpayer expense. The maximum flat reimbursements allowable are a sleazy practice. And he's going to clean up state government? Maybe the state Republican Party should sue Mark Martin, too.

UPDATE: Martin tries to stir up covering fire with an overheated, but ultimately thin, complaint.

Martin claims Pat O'Brien violated federal law intended to insure military voting rights by failing to list all races on 80 absentee ballots mailed from the Jacksonville area. Strong accusation, but weak facts.

What happened was that the County Election Commission (a bipartisan body) prepared and sent 80 absentee ballots to Jacksonville residents under the erroneous assumption (based on an election as recent as 2002) that aldermen are chosen by wards, not citywide. So those 80 voters didn't get all contested aldermen races on their ballots, only their ward elections. The ballots were delivered to the county clerk, who doesn't prepare them, but mails them. A city official caught the error last week. New ballots were printed. Supplemental ballots were sent to those 80 voters on Monday, 36 days before the election. Of those, 42 are overseas voters. Their supplemental ballots weren't mailed 45 days in advance, as required by federal law, but there's a period after the Nov. 2 election for ballots to be received. Melinda Allen, the director of the Election Commission, said she regretted the error and had done all she could to correct it.

More here.

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