Time to stop the legislative payola | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time to stop the legislative payola

Posted By on Sun, Mar 11, 2012 at 8:10 AM

TRAVELING MAN: Eddie Joe Williams has made a lot of stops all over the world.
  • TRAVELING MAN: Eddie Joe Williams has made a lot of stops all over the world.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today did its annual matchup of lobby reporting with legislative financial disclosure and turned up several that hadn't fully disclosed the freebies they received in 2011. (The good Christian gentleman, Rep. Justin Harris, apparently doesn't think the ethics law applies to him any more than the U.S. Constitution does when it comes to teaching religion with tax dollars.)

I'm guessing this isn't all of the story. It's a safe bet there's not a legislator in the 135 who reported any of the free drink and eatfests in excess of the gift limit that they received courtesy of lobbyists who combine forces to throw deluxe wingdings that individually fall below reporting limits.

But anyway. It's time again to talk about the need for the Regnant Populus 2012 initiative to impose a Walmart rule on state legislators. Under this rule, they would not be able to take so much as a hamburger from people seeking to influence their votes. Sen. Eddie Joe Williams of Cabot is this year's poster child for the grabby legislator:

* He took a subsidized trip to Turkey, not originally reported, but he's now amended his filings because the D-G caught him. His reports also show:

* The Arkansas Electric Co-ops paid almost $4,000 so he and his wife could go to a Washington conference.

* He got a $1,700 trip to Seattle, courtesy of Microsoft.

* He was taken again to Washington by the Koch-brothers underwritten Americans for Prosperity. This was only in the $500 range

* The Air Force took him on an Air Rodeo outing said to be worth under $200. (Maybe it was so cheap because the flight was considered a freebie.) I believe the rodeo was in Washington state in 2011.

Think Sen. Williams and the others on those junkets ever bite the hands that feed them?

Sign the Regnat Populus petitions. End the freebies. If there's taxpayer value in a trip for legislators, let them bill the taxpayers for the cost and stand ready to justify it.

At a minimum, we should at least expect a ritual like a friend of mine's mother imposed in college. She'd pay him $5 every time he went to church, but he had to mail her the Sunday program. I'd like to see the program of activities on that coal-mining junket in which spouses participated for starters. Specific listings of hotels, restaurants, golf interludes, etc.

PS — Keep an eye on the Turkish group in Little Rock that subsidized trips to Turkey for a bipartisan delegation of legislators and wives. They have local interests, too, just as the co-ops, Microsoft and others do.

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