Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Strange bedfellows: Conservative group echoes Arkansas Blog on ethics

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 10:04 AM

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The Conduit for Action is a Tea Party-oriented political group that had some political success in 2014 and plans to try again to target Republican legislators who committed the cardinal sin of voting for the private option Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

In one of several races, the Conduit likely will be backing Washington County Republican JP Sharon Lloyd in her primary challenge of incumbent Republican Sen. Jon Woods. Or at least backing Lloyd by tearing down Woods.

Witness: A new post on its website ripping Woods up and down for his pivotal role in sham ethics legislation. You've read it all here before — he was a chief architect of longer term limits, higher legislative pay, loopholes for lobbyist wining and dining and, most recently, an ethics mulligan rule that makes it just about impossible to successfully complain about erroneous campaign financial statement filings. (They didn't mention Woods' role in a constitutional amendment meant to reverse a court ruling that put a halt to taxpayer subsidies of private chambers of commerce.)

It is a rare day that Conduit for Action writes glowingly about words found in the Arkansas Times. Another non-admirer, Debbie Pelley of Jonesboro, commander of the Black Helicopter Brigade in Northeast Arkansas, even sent me a copy of her own missive on the point.

Let me just say this about that:

Lectures on ethics ring a little hollow from people who have set up multiple PACs to funnel money into candidates of their choice, as a way around PAC $5,000 contribution limits. The people who run Conduit for Action have set up at least six PACs. No action from them yet on spending because filing hasn't opened, though they cumulatively have about $35,000 on hand. I get it when, say, realtors have a PAC and every realtor chips in $5,000 to an affinity group. But when essentially the same outfit has multiple PACs capable of getting the same maximum contributions multiple times from the same person, well: It may be legal, but it sure isn't right. Michael Morton's multiple PACs for judicial candidate support illustrate how quickly an odor can arise.

Not much new on the contribution end yet from the PACs set up by Brenda Vassaur Taylor, a key player in Conduit for Action. They got $5,000 from Jackson T. Stephens Jr., the Club for Growth benefactor who's put his inherited wealth to work fighting taxation and government spending. Also $5,000 contributions were made to two PACs by Terminella Engineering of Fayetteville. It will be interesting to see if those two PACs contribute, in sum, greater than normal individual contribution limits to a single legislative candidate such as Lloyd. Even Bruce Hawkins, a lobbyist who has set up seven PACs receiving money from his lobbying clients, said he believes that would be an out-of-bounds end run around contribution limits. The proliferation of PACs is a direct response to the ethics amendment that nominally banned corporate contributions to candidates. PACs were still allowed to give money. So there now will simply be more PACs, with an even narrower funnel — chiefly lobbyists — directed at who gets corporate money and who doesn't.

From where I sit, Woods isn't alone in distorting the ethics law.


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