Mark Darr: The dead wood edition | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mark Darr: The dead wood edition

Posted By on Sat, Feb 1, 2014 at 7:49 AM

click to enlarge THE MAN WHO ISN'T THERE: State website still reflects Mark Darr at the helm of state office. His resignation is effective today. The website is due to be de-Darrized next week.
  • THE MAN WHO ISN'T THERE: State website still reflects Mark Darr at the helm of state office. His resignation is effective today. The website is due to be de-Darrized next week.

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr is gone. The column about what happens next writes itself.

Yesterday I quoted Sen. President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux as saying he saw no reason with the $250,000 Darr office payroll — four employees — shouldn't stay on the state teat. For "constituent" service. I noted then there are no constituents for an officeholder who doesn't exist.

Let's belabor some more obvious points.

The Republican Party thinks so little of the lieutenant governor's office that they want to change the law to avoid filling the job for 10 months. I can't argue with the job's worthlessness.

But … if the job itself is worthless, why does it need a $250,000 support staff?

The same Republicans that want to keep these four employed — Bruce Campbell ($75,132); Amber Pool ($57,564); Josh Curtis ($51,564), and Raeanne Gardner ($33,660) — are not so free with public money in other arenas.

Small-government Tea Party conservatives want to cut food stamps, even for the working poor, people who really have to work. There's little evidence that much work was required or produced by this foursome when the office actually held a lieutenant governor.

Small-government Tea Party conservatives want to stop extended unemployment benefits for people who've tried repeatedly but failed to get work, though they're willing to do hard labor, not simply twiddle fingers in a non-existent state officeholder's comfortable office.

Small-government Tea Party conservatives don't want to extend government-supported health insurance (Obamacare) to more of the working poor. But they do think the Gang of Four should continue to qualify for the state's solid-gold, heavily subsidized state employee insurance plan.

That's right. Get ready for impassioned speeches against Obamacare during the fiscal session, while the Gang of Four do nothing down the hall for fat salaries and fat insurance benefits, plus a holiday and vacation schedule that only a hedge funder could truly appreciate.

Small-government Tea Party conservatives oppose an increase in the state's $6.25 an hour minimum wage. They  think this is enough money to pay for your own health insurance without state help and feed a family.

Do the math: Republicans in the legislature see no problem in continuing to employ a staff with no duties at the following hourly rates — $36/hr. for Campbell; $27.67 for Pool; $24.79 for Curtis, and $16.18 for Gardner, tasked with answering phone calls to a non-existent state official.

It's outrageous. And it's typical. Those in the cloistered world of the Capitol have never felt the same pain that the rest of the world does. Legislators are cosseted because so many employees, like Darr's, are political patronage people who endeavor to make life comfortable for the princes and princesses in the House and Senate.

Lamoureux, an accessible, able and comparatively sane Republican, isn't immune and no wonder. He draws taxpayer money from both the Senate and the Arkansas Public Defenders Commission and some legal work from the likes of phone companies with major legislative interests in the chamber over which he presides. He is a favored house guest around the world, too. Thanks to his office, he got free or heavily subsidized trips last year to, wait for it, Beijing, Madrid, Edinburgh, Hawaii, Seattle, Washington and who knows where else. We don't know the real source of money for many of these conferences (who underwrites the Senate presidents' many conventions, for example?), but you can bet friendly people were on hand with policy ideas for attendees. They were not people making $6.25 an hour.

When I wrote a note to Lamoureux questioning the continued employment of the Gang 
click to enlarge TRAVELING MAN: Sen. Lamoureux traveled the world for free last year. It perhaps desensitizes him to paying people up to $36 an hour to do little or nothing in an office without an officeholder.
  • TRAVELING MAN: Sen. Lamoureux traveled the world for free last year. It perhaps desensitizes him to paying people up to $36 an hour to do little or nothing in an office without an officeholder.
of Four, he said he was surprised at the interest. I said I was surprised he was surprised. He thought further, and responded to another question, from Blue Hog Report's Matt Campbell. Campbell asked Lamoureux:

I read your comments that former Lt. Gov. Darr’s staff would remain in place following his departure because, “They are there to serve to the people of Arkansas. They aren't there to serve Mark Darr." If that were true, wouldn’t that be a classified state position, subject to standard hiring and firing rules, rather than a position that can be filled by the Lt. Gov. at his discretion? Furthermore, you stated, "They get requests and constituent calls.” Yet, if there is no Lt. Gov. in office, what requests could they receive? Also, Mr. Darr has no constituents if he is no longer in office, and, by definition, non-elected persons have no constituency. So what “constituents” will be contacting that office in a manner that requires FOUR full-time employees to handle the responses?

Lamaoureux responded:

I do not know the answers about hiring.

This is not something I had planned to do.

I have not even had a chance to talk to them as my focus has been on another topic.

I plan to meet with them next week and seek further advice from our general counsel.

I am surprised the interest this has drawn.

Lamoureux was quoted further in the paper today, however, as wondering whether these employees could be touched. Imagine, employees constitutionally entitled to a job because nobody has authority over them. Hint to Gang of Four: You don't even have to come to work to draw your pay because there's not a thing any of those Tea Party Republicans in the legislature can do about it. You're bulletproof.

Really. At a minimum, can we agree no money can be appropriated at the fiscal session for the year beginning July 1?

The most disappointing comment in the paper this morning was from go-along to get-along House Democratic "leader" Greg Leding. He seems to acquiesce to the idea that taxpayers should foot the bill for long-term taxpayer welfare checks to people who have no one to work for.

It is another boot stomped on the neck of working people by a legislature accomplished in the assault and  battery.

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