State prepares for federal probe of legislators' records | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State prepares for federal probe of legislators' records

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 7:24 AM

The Bureau of Legislative Research has hired the politically power-packed MItchell law firm (lobbyists and other political connections galore) of Little Rock to represent the interests of lawmakers in expected visits from federal investigators in an unspecified probe.

The recent flurry of coverage about this leaves me a little puzzled.

It's been clear for some time that the feds have continued to probe the manner in which state surplus money was doled out at legislators' direction for pet projects. That is NOT a crime, though I still think it has been done in contravention of the state Constitution. A pending appeal of a ruling by Judge Chris Piazza will decide where the Arkansas Supreme Court falls on that question.

It IS illegal to taking kickbacks for guiding such money to beneficiaries. One former legislator, Micah Neal, has pleaded guilty to this offense. Another, Jon Woods, has been indicted and awaits trial.

The FBI came calling for records of planning and development districts that doled out the money some time ago. Apparently they'd like to look at Capitol records too. If they come with subpoenas, I don't think the legislative working papers exception to the Freedom of Information Act offers them any shield, so I'm not entirely clear why $295-an-hour Mitchell firm help is needed for guidance in the matter.

You'd hope legislators — as stupid and crooked as some undoubtedly are — would know better than to leave e-mails to legislative staff saying: "I want $10,000 in GIF money to go to the Bumfuzzle Goat Rodeo. This is important. I'm getting a $1,000 kickback." But the correspondence could identify confederates with stories to tell.

At some point, you'd think statutes of limitation might begin to run. It has been more than four years since an Arkansas nursing home owner, aided by a former Republican senator, poured big money into a planned judicial race by a judge who promptly reduced a huge jury verdict against the nursing home owner. The judge pleaded guilty and then thought better of it. No charges against anyone else have been filed.

I think the rising belief that there's more to come most likely lies in the unindicted person with connections to the matter that landed Micah Neal and Jon Woods in court. A lobbyist and executive of a company that has received major handouts from surplus money, he has been referenced obliquely in their cases. Might he be providing feds a roadmap?

The wheels of justice grind on.


Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • North Little Rock mayor shows downtown plaza plan

    North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith is presenting a plan to the City Council tonight for a downtown plaza meant to augment planned private developments and further enhanced downtown as a destination.
    • Sep 25, 2017
  • Attorney general asks for continued secrecy on execution drugs

    As expected, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has asked the Arknasas Supreme Court for an "emergency stay" of a lower court ruling that the Correction Department must produce labels from one of the drugs used in executions.
    • Sep 25, 2017
  • Groups seek end to commercial collection of wild turtles

    Several environmental organizations to end commercial turtle collection in Arkansas.The harvests (more than 126,000 turtles from 2014 to 2016) are not sustainable and that, in turn, is damaging to ecosystems, the groups said.
    • Sep 25, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • More on how highways were used to wipe out "blight" of non-white neighborhoods

    Vox, a news website that concerns itself with energy and other issues, has a fine piece, including before and after images, on the history of the U.S. interstate system and why roads were built through the middle of cities (unless people of influence stopped them — see Manhattan, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)
    • Mar 22, 2016
  • Today in Trump: Obstruction of justice anyone?

    It's the New York Times with the news today. Fired FBI Director James Comey kept notes of his talks with Donald Trump. A memo he wrote in February after a meeting with Trump said the president asked him to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
    • May 16, 2017
  • Saturday's open line

    Got any thoughts? Put them here.
    • May 21, 2016

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

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