UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr accepts $11,000 fine for multiple ethics law violations; blames "recordkeeping" | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 30, 2013

UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr accepts $11,000 fine for multiple ethics law violations; blames "recordkeeping"

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM

FINED $11,000: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, shown dodging reporter questions after earlier appearance b before the Ethics Commission, offered a partial defense of multiple law violations today.
  • FINED $11,000: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, shown dodging reporter questions after earlier appearance b before the Ethics Commission, offered a partial defense of multiple law violations today.

Because Little Rock lawyer Matt Campbell brought the complaint that resulted in this action, he's received notice of the resolution of multiple ethics violations by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr.

According to documents Campbell received and provided to me, Darr will pay $11,000 in fines as a result of 11  violations and will file amended campaign reports that accurately report his spending.

In accepting the terms in a letter dated today, Darr continued to assert that his errors were in record keeping, not knowingly converting campaign money to his own use. The record contradicts that, however. He falls back on the excuse that since he was raising money to pay off money he'd loaned the campaign, he was only spending money that was his anyway, even if improperly accounted. This overlooks, as we've noted before, that he raised thousands more than necessary to pay off his debt and thus money spent in excess of that debt was indeed  illegal conversion. Darr also didn't explain the findings by Legislative Audit and the Ethics Commission that he illegally spent his office expense account on personal expenses.

Ethics Commission findings: Darr also took excessive campaign contributions from, among others, UA Trustee John Goodson. Also: He raised $5,700 more than necessary to pay off his campaign debt; he made at least $3,500 in personal charges on a state credit card; he made numerous bookkeeping errors and omissions. For example, though Darr was paid at least $5,700 more than necessary to pay off his loans to his campaign, his last regularly campaign report claimed he was still owed $18,000. The Commission did clear Darr of spending public money on his campaign though he did spend it on himself.

Darr previously had said he had no intention of resigning. Republican officials have stood noticeably silent as the Darr spending scandal played out on two fronts, though many were quick to demand a resignation by Democratic Sen. Paul Bookout when the Ethics Commission found he had spent campaign money on personal expenses. Bookout promptly resigned.

Darr reiterated an apology to Arkansas people and acknowledged "record-keeping" errors. But, he added, "it is a mistake to infer from this that I ever intentionally took money I was not entitled to."

So there's your excuse: Ignorance of the law. Or lack of intent to steal. You may judge his credibility on this yourself. His abrupt abandonment of a congressional race when the extent of his personal use of campaign and public money became known is one factor to consider. Maybe Darr is simply that stupid. That he thought his campaign and his taxpayer expense account could be used without limit or sufficient reporting for his gallivanting around Arkansas. Nobody else thought so. But he has complained bitterly to auditors and others that he doesn't enjoy the same expense account enjoyed by legislators. Republican Chair Doyle Webb could have counseled Darr. He once sued Democratic officeholders over their use of public money for private commuting.

Does Mark Darr have shame? Does the Republican Party have shame? Will legislative leadership move for his impeachment in January if he doesn't resign? Will a prosecutor review Darr's conversion of public money to private use for criminal violations. None has yet been reimbursed, though Darr has promised to do so. Remember, reimbursement is generally viewed only as a mitigating factor in sentencing, not proof of innocence.

Darr's letter insisted he didn't want to minimize his mistakes, but it does. It says "it is fair to distinguish between these mistakes and taking money that was not mine." But the Ethics report is clear. He DID take money — both campaign and public — that was not his, by any definition. The argument is only over the extend of Darr's misspending — the $44,000 rung up in an initial tally, or, more charitably, the $5,700 in excess campaign money he spent and the $9,000 in unauthorized spending cited by Legislative Audit.

Darr's letter closed by again apologizing and saying "I will comply fully with the Ethics Commission's recommendation of fines and corrected disclosure reports."

Darr's attorney, Dan Greenberg, confirmed the documents I obtained. He said Darr planned to meet deadlines set out in the offer for correcting reports and paying fines and reimbursements either in lump sum or through a payment plan. He said he had no reason to think Darr had wavered from past statements that he would remain in office. He repeated that intent was important in judging Darr's actions.

UPDATE: Matt Campbell at his Blue Hog Report explains the essential dishonesty of Mark Darr's attempt to cover his rear for double-digit ethics law violations.

Remember the gas  fillips that Darr called "fund-raisers"?

Remember that he was caught cheating more than a year ago?

Remeber that he kept using state credit cards after being caught?

But the use of state cards for gas? By his own admission, he knew that was improper as far back as June 1, 2011. Then he kept doing it. For months.

And that’s really the rub. Being too stupid or too unconcerned with the law to run a campaign correctly is one thing. Misconstruing what you did with state funds, even as you ostensibly accept your punishment for doing it, is another. The former just makes us all embarrassed for having you as an elected official; the latter makes you a liar.

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