The fourth branch of government | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The fourth branch of government

Posted By on Sun, Jun 5, 2011 at 7:37 AM

BIG SPENDER: Passing out checks is good politics, Dustin McDaniel acknowledges.
  • BIG SPENDER: Passing out checks is good politics, Dustin McDaniel acknowledges.
This thought occurred to me last week and I'm glad John Brummett followed it up:

It's about how Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is set up as something like an independent branch of government, annexing money won in consumer lawsuits and self-designating its use. Legislating and executiving after winning a judicial contest you might say.

Here, the issue is money McDaniel set aside for the apple-pie-motherhood issue of going after Internet predators. Don't expect a cheer here. Plenty of agencies are doing this already. I'm not so sure that it's apple pie when the attorney general appropriates his own money for his own police force and his own prosecutorial effort.

He sees it differently, you might guess, and tells Brummett so.

McDaniel told me by phone Thursday that sometimes good policy and good politics fuse, and that, yes, this is an occasion in which his office can help do some important good in a way that might amount to good politics in his personal behalf.

But he said he was hardly the first attorney general to exercise such fiscal discretion and office embellishment. And he made sure I recalled that, in fact, he resisted a legislative raid on this discretion in the recent session, in part by promising greater accounting to the Legislature of his use of such settlement dollars.

Given his discretion, I wish he'd put the dollars to work against banks screwing consumers in foreclosures; fighting for a cleaner environment; fighting utility companies tooth and nail for cleaner, more efficient and less costly services; investigating waste of Human Services dollars on agencies that mistreat children and scam money to enrich people known to be bad actors. To name just a few. But that's just me.

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