Monday, May 20, 2013

The piegate open line

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Weird day. I've been consumed with Martha Shoffner's favorite pie. Line is open. Finishing up, it's still all Martha all the time:

* MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS: Will a single federal charge be enough for Martha Shoffner? With conviction, probably, for a 68-year-old woman and a long federal jolt. But what a mess left behind. For example:

1) FREE RENT: FBI recitation said Shoffner lived free in a Little Rock building until 2009 when it was sold (and she went looking for a sugar daddy in the bond business). Lived free? Reported as gift? Gift legal under ethics rule? Who provided the gift? Did they get something in return?

2) CAMPAIGN FINANCE: There's still Shoffner's claim that she spent $900 a month in campaign money on a beatup, aging Ford van rented from a Newport used car lot. Really? Or did it mask a way to tap campaign money?

3) EMPLOYEES: Multiple employees have told me tales today of being dispatched to purchase everything from items for her mother's house to a bacon biscuit for her dog (bacon had to be extra crispy) with office accounts. One employee said she was offered a public pay raise if she'd work outside the office on state time to raise campaign money. Another said she'd told the FBI about campaign contributions missing from reports. Another told me about staff shakedowns to buy gifts for Shoffner, such as a set of golf clubs. Another told of receiving cash payments for doing questionable chores for Shoffner as an employee.

4) THE CANCER: Is Shoffner really believable when she says she shook down ONLY ONE securities dealer for living expenses? Bribery is sort of like eating potato chips, isn't it? Can't live on just one.

5) THE FUTURE: Nobody — nobody — is urging Shoffner to stay and fight. If we can believe the FBI's sworn affidavit, she's admitted taking illegal kickbacks. She'd serve the public, her party and her legal fees by resigning and cutting the best deal possible as quickly as possible and hope her lawyer Chuck Banks can find a way to plead for mercy.

6) IN DEFENSE: Employees — including those sorely disaffected with Shoffner — ascribe some of her problems to mood swings and judgment bordering on delusional. A gambling addiction helped a previous client of Chuck Banks, Lu Hardin, avoid jail time for abuse of public office. Perhaps Shoffner can present a sympathy-inducing defense. Based on early reports, however, she might have a harder time turning out a file folder full of testimonials from friends and co-workers.

7) CO-CONSPIRATOR: Surely we'll know sooner rather than later who wired up to give feds the goods on his/her payments to Shoffner. Surely there'll be consequences for a dishonest securities salesman even if held harmless on federal charges through his immunity deal.

* ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD: Massive tornado smashed Oklahoma City. A track two miles wide. An elementary school took a direct hit, according to various reports.

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