Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pat Hays now playing hardball against French Hill

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 10:44 AM


Did I say Pat Hays, the Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, had been relentlessly positive in his campaign against Republican J. French Hill, the 9th generation Arkansan and wealthy banker?

Strike that.

The ad is not what you called positive. But it is also not false, which is the thrust of recent French Hill advertising against Hays.

I have a tiny degree of sympathy for Hill on the subject of Martha Shoffner. Banks have long been major contributors to candidates for state treasurer because the state puts immense sums out in demand deposits at low interest rates. Never hurts to be friendly with those who write the deposit slips.

Martha Shoffner expected such tributes and I have no doubt some of her deposits were guided by her perceptions of friend and foe. BUT … she wasn't convicted for taking illegal money from French Hill or his bank. She was convicted of taking cash payments from a bond salesman, Steele Stephens, in return for shoving a disproportionate amount of state business his way.

Everything the Hays ad says is true. But it creates a misleading linkage of contributions by Hill and investments and his bank — garden variety SOP influence insurance — with illegal activities. One practice is merely smelly. The other is a crime. Big difference.

Can I say again we shouldn't be electing the state chief depositor? That the office should be abolished? If Republican Dennis "What we need is another 9/11" Milligan wins, you'll be further convinced of that. His Democratic opponent, Karen Sealy Garcia, is a proven financial executive with no record of holding extortionate meetings with political opponents at Krispy Kreme.

PS — What's the deal with this ad opening with a shot of Pat Hays with a bunch of hunters toting shotguns?

Bring back Mr. Nice Guy.

PPS — A reader responds that the ad is "false" by creating the impression that Hill's bank was enriched with $700 million. The bank did keep $700 million in deposits. But, yes, this, too, could create a false impression. I thought I'd made it clear that I saw that general flaw in the ad from the outset. It also creates the impression of hypocrisy on Hays' part, following as it does a week of complaining about Hill's negative ad, even if it did falsely accuse Hays of something he had not done.

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