Michael Morton's reach in Arkansas politics and the Gilbert Baker tie | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Michael Morton's reach in Arkansas politics and the Gilbert Baker tie

Posted By on Sun, Jan 18, 2015 at 10:12 AM

click to enlarge BAGMAN: Former GOP Sen. Gilbert Baker is integral to any story about 2014 political contributions by nursing home magnate Michael Morton. Horse and carriage, you might say.
  • BAGMAN: Former GOP Sen. Gilbert Baker is integral to any story about 2014 political contributions by nursing home magnate Michael Morton. Horse and carriage, you might say.
Fine effort in this morning's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Lisa Hammersly to expand on a favorite topic of mine — nursing home magnate Michael Morton's extensive campaign finance efforts. It's here, but subscription is required.

With help from a nonprofit that researches state campaign spending, the D-G concluded that Morton had given $1.25 million in 15 years to various races. This doesn't cover all possible races in which he might have contributed. I'm also not clear if it gets to his many contributions to PACs that in turn gave money to candidates.

It's a whopping sum, nonetheless.

The article reported, as I have, on Morton contributions to five sitting members of the Arkansas Supreme Court, led by the recently elected Rhonda Wood. Wood is notable not only for the size of her contributions from Morton and other nursing home owners (roughly $70,000), but from her home in Faulkner County, also home to bagman Gilbert Baker.

Baker used his ties with Morton to help raise money not only for Wood and the defrocked Mike Maggio, who's pleaded guilty to being influenced by Morton contributions arranged through Baker to reduce a $5.2 million verdict against a Morton nursing home to $1 million. Neither Baker nor Morton have been charged with a crime, please note.

The D-G didn't have room to get into every detail. It focused on those who'd received $20,000 or more from Morton.

I wish, for useful context, they'd have also focused on his general like for putting money into the judicial system. Not just Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (who got $88,000) but also into circuit court races, including one for the successor to Maggio. Again, Morton's fondness for contributing to Faulkner County candidates and Baker's presence there are interesting facets of Morton's effort to win friends and influence judges. And don't forget Sen. Jason Rapert, another favored by Morton money. I rounded up the Faulkner County connection here — including judicial candidates Troy Braswell, Doralee Chandler and David Clark.

The $20,000 cutoff set by the D-G for highlighting just barely cut off — technically — at least one other notable state legislative candidate. That would be Stacy Hurst who lost a House race in Little Rock. Gilbert Baker boasted of the money he'd raised for Hurst in her initial campaign filing, taking credit for $100,000 of the $115,000. Baker is not exactly trustworthy. But the filing did show $10,000 from Michael Morton, plus $5,000 from those PACs Baker set up with Chris Stewart to funnel additional money from Michael Morton into candidacies. Hurst refunded the PAC money, but not the direct Michael Morton money. He made up for it in the final campaign filing period with another $8,000 for Hurst, leaving him at $18,000 directly. It could have been $23,000 but for that unfortunate publicity.

Morton has said repeatedly that he expects no quid pro quo for his money, just good government from people who think like he does on important issues of law and justice.

Feel better?

Tags: , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016
  • The inspiring Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton's campaign for president illustrates again the double standard applied to women. Some writers get it. They even find the supposedly unlikable Clinton inspiring.
    • Oct 16, 2016
  • Another Republican miracle-working governor

    Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation