Faulkner County word association: Follow the money to Fort Smith | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faulkner County word association: Follow the money to Fort Smith

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 10:33 AM

click to enlarge MICHAEL MORTON: Fort Smith nursing home magnate funnels huge amounts of cash into campaigns of judicial candidates in Faulkner County. Also the GOP nominee for attorney general.
  • MICHAEL MORTON: Fort Smith nursing home magnate funnels huge amounts of cash into campaigns of judicial candidates in Faulkner County. Also the GOP nominee for attorney general.
Other events distracted me from an addenda to news about the preferential handling of divorce cases extended to select people in Faulkner County.

It's a simple question:

Q: What do former Faulkner Circuit Judge Karen Baker (now on Ark. Supreme Court); Faulkner Circuit Judge Mike Maggio (former, as of today); Faulkner County Circuit Judge-elect Troy Braswell; former Faulkner County Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood (Ark. Supreme Court-elect); Faulkner County Circuit Judge David Clark; Faulkner County Circuit Judge candidate Dora Lee Chandler; Faulkner County-area Sen. Jason Rapert, and former Faulkner County-area Sen. Gilbert Baker have in common?

A:Michael Morton.

Morton is the Fort Smith nursing home magnate who's put tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of those I named, often guided by Gilbert Baker. Baker also was the mastermind of a web of PACs created by a Republican lawyer (all these people, save maybe Karen Baker, have relied on Republican political connections for election) to swell the amount of money Morton could put into the Maggio campaign for Court of Appeals and the Rhonda Wood campaign for Supreme Court.

Arkansas's porous ethics law allows Morton to multiply his contributions through corporate shells. He believes it's good for business  to elect the right kind of judges to the bench. "Conservatives," they call themselves. That means they are unlikely, in Morton's view, to be harsh on good corporate citizens who also like to exercise corporate personhood over and over and over in multiple disguises.

Something smells bad in Faulkner County. Maggio is gone. Baker lost the $130,000 subsidy for his political backroom dealing that UCA President Tom Courtway, to his shame, once extended. Will a federal investigation produce more? Morton says he has nothing to fear. Indeed, he has kept on giving.

Morton's total giving, for example, to Republican attorney general candidate Leslie Rutledge hit at least $60,000 in June. It is only coincidental that the attorney general's office has a Medicaid fraud division and nursing homes receive millions in income from Medicaid.

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