Sen. Bookout appears in deep ethical trouble | Arkansas Blog

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sen. Bookout appears in deep ethical trouble

Posted By on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 6:44 AM

SEN. PAUL BOOKOUT
  • SEN. PAUL BOOKOUT
Thanks to Durango for summarizing an article Saturday in the Jonesboro Sun, open only to subscribers, about Democratic Sen. Paul Bookout's appearance before the state Ethics Commission.

From his summary and my understanding of Ethics Commission proceedings, it would appear the Commission investigation has found probable cause to believe he violated state ethics laws by failing to itemize expenditures from his campaign fund in 2012 and by spending campaign money for personal use.

The complaint was brought by Bob Hester of Jonesboro, who smelled something fishy. Bookout, who was unopposed, nonethless raised $81,000 and spent $50,000 in unitemized expenses, including $27,000 in "entertainment." All expenses of $100 or more must be itemized. It strained belief to think Bookout had spent $50,000 in a non-campaign in such small doses.

And, according to Waylon Harris' article summarized for us last night by Durango, Bookout, through his attorney, Sen. Robert Thompson of Paragould, offered to repay $48,000. Thompson said there were 67 expenditures of $100 or more.

I've asked Thompson for an itemization of those expenditures. Sounds bad.

The rubber meets the road here for the Ethics Commission, which has the case under submission. If Bookout has flagrantly violated the campaign law in a way that converted campaign money to his own use, the punishment HAS to be sufficient to discourage similar by others.

I'd add that if the law doesn't sufficiently discourage politicians from dipping into campaign money for $50,000 in personal expenses, it's time to consider criminalizing such behavior. I would include in the list of proposed criminal sanctions the growing practice of sending campaign money to friendly politicians through the sham known as "ticketed events." This is nothing but personal use of campaign money, buying eternal friendship from colleagues.

Let's focus on Bookout for now. But I'm confident he's not the first politician to convert campaign money to non-political purposes. Our ethics commission is understaffed and reactive. If it gets no complaints, it takes no action. As long as state legislators like Bookout control the agency's budget, it's not likely to be made more powerful.

And another thing: We are long overdue in preventing carryover campaign funds for incumbent politicians. They are rarely opposed. Their surplus funds are open invitations to abusive practices. See: Paul Bookout.

And speaking still of Paul Bookout: The legislature could, but won't, look again at the issue of people getting hired, effectively, as in-house lobbyists, such as when funeral director Bookout got hired as a "government affairs" representative of a local hospital. The General Assembly is dotted with people working for trade associations and the like, their primary qualification being their voting machine key. On another day, we can talk about the in-house lawyers who score unreported fees from companies with lucrative business at the General Assembly (see Republican Senate leader Michael Lamoureux this session, to name but one).

UPDATE: Thompson said he could not comment on the case while it remained under consideration.

Tags: , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Woo. An open line

    The open line. Hogs, Trump, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
    • Sep 23, 2017
  • Trump launches attack on 'SOBs' of the NFL

    Donald Trump led a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange Friday night and the resulting news coverage (if not in our local newspaper) is giving great attention for his rant against the NFL, including but not limited to players who have made political statements by taking a knee during the National Anthem.
    • Sep 23, 2017
  • Driver killed in crash with Maumelle officer

    Maumelle police report the death early this morning of a motorist who crashed head-on with a Maumelle police officer. The officer and two passengers in the other vehicle were injured.
    • Sep 23, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation