The Sunday open line: Ethical vacuum and Libertarians in the news. | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Sunday open line: Ethical vacuum and Libertarians in the news.

Posted By on Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 4:49 PM

The line is open. Final thoughts:

click to enlarge 'INAPPROPRIATE': Sen. Johnny Key said it would be inappropriate to comment on his effort to get lobby job at UA. Some might think the job is inappropriate for a sitting senator.
  • 'INAPPROPRIATE': Sen. Johnny Key said it would be inappropriate to comment on his effort to get lobby job at UA. Some might think the job is inappropriate for a sitting senator.
* SEN. JOHNNY KEY MUM ON EFFORT TO LAND UA LOBBY JOB: Republican Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home shared his prepared statement, but nothing more, on his intent to seek the $200,000-a-year-job of lobbyist for Walton U., otherwise known as the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas, where Chancellor David Gearhart just convened a task force to increase accountability and media trust in his staggering institution.

Hiring a lobbyist who's sitting in the legislator is not how I'd start to write on Gearhart's clean slate. But then, the conventional wisdom is that — though the UA got some headline bruising from the Advancement Division financial meltdown and cover up — it looks like there'll be no criminal charges and no firings of anybody except whistleblowers. UA still rules! Key's skills at pulling strings when it counts in the legislature, with a minimum of accountability and transparency, make him an ideal fit for the UA job.

Is the plan really for him to go to work before this term is up? One report I've received says he believes he wouldn't be required to register yet because, uh, he wouldn't be lobbying the legislature. Would he no longer attend committee meetings, such as the higher education budget subcommittee? And what if the private option isn't resolved? What if Gov. Mike Beebe has to call a subsequent special session to fix the holes that will tear in the state budget. Key has been doing his part. He's joined the massive college pressure campaign to adopt the private option because it means money for higher education. Not that this work has anything to do with Key's apparent inside track on the lobby job.

I asked Key for his view on the appearances — if not the legal loophole he enjoys  — of a sitting senator taking one of the biggest publicly financed lobbying jobs in the state. I asked him how he squared it with the law passed during his tenure that imposed a one-year cooling-off period for movement to the lobby (exempting people like him currently serving). I wonder, too, how he feels about supporting the ever-lamer-looking proposed "ethics amendment" that imposes a two-year cooling off period, but opens the door to pay raises and longer service by people like Key, who see public service as a very lucrative career builder. I got only his statement. I told him to keep my additional questions on file for when the UA deal gets done.

I have applied for the position of Vice Chancellor of Government Relations at the University of Arkansas.

The level of consideration that is given to my application will certainly have an impact on my filing for reelection, and that should become clearer next week.

There are very few pursuits for which I would consider not returning to the Senate. The opportunity to work for my alma mater to advance higher education in Arkansas is one of those pursuits.

Out of respect for the selection process, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time. 

I've asked UA about other candidates for the job and any internal communications. I'm guessing Gearhart isn't producing many paper trails anymore, however.

I wonder too — if the fix is in as it appears to be — how Key and his pals will work out the dance on filing period for his Senate seat, which starts Monday. Will the deal be done early in the filing period, or at the last minute, where only somebody in the know would be prepared to step in? Think Rep. John Burris, for example, who's as adept as Key at pulling fast ones.  

* LIBERTARIANS HAVE CANDIDATES: Here's a list of statewide and congressional candidates nominated by the  Libertarian Party at a convention this weekend. Greens will be coming, too, to add candidates in such top-billed races as governor and U.S. senators. Will they have an impact? On which major party candidate if they do? November will tell.

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