Kemp speaks

Circuit Judge Dan Kemp of Mountain View has moved out from behind his daughter.

He got in touch this morning to account for himself in regard to the charges on the Blue Hog blog from the Courtney Goodson-supporting Sheffield Nelson.

The charge: That Judge Kemp accepted a lenient misdemeanor plea deal for the drug-felony-charged daughter of local Mountain View banker-politico Jim Hinkle, and then called Hinkle and invoked the daughter’s case in asking Hinkle for money to support Kemp’s race against Goodson for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Here is Kemp’s scenario:

Hinkle’s 42-year-old eldest daughter got arrested on drug charges in late October 2014. In November 2014, Kemp signed off on an agreement between the prosecutor and the defense attorney to continue the case while the daughter went to rehab.

A year later, last November, days after Kemp had announced as a candidate for chief justice against Goodson, the prosecutor brought the matter before the court because the rehab had been completed.

The plea arrangement for a misdemeanor conviction of driving while intoxicated by drugs was based on a first offense, which Kemp said he remembered asking the deputy prosecutor to confirm. That was based on what was in the file regarding the license number check from the arrest the year before, which reflected that the Arkansas Crime Information Center report came back showing no felonies or outstanding warrants.

We need to fix that, Kemp said. He’s seen it happen elsewhere – meaning an inaccurate ACIC report.

Anyway, the case was ended – meaning the plea negotiation accepted – last Nov. 10.

Kemp says he and his wife came to Little Rock that evening to fly out for a long-planned vacation the next morning, and returned on the 20th, and that the earliest he could have called Hinkle was Nov. 21.

He has some notes from that day seeming to reflect South Arkansas contacts that either Hinkle or Hinkle’s wife gave him.

It is customary for judge candidates to call well-connected people to ask for help and to seek referrals to people who might help them in other parts of the state.

But not to ask for money. A judge candidate is not to do that directly.

Kemp said he called Hinkle to seek his campaign help, but that he of course knew better than to ask for money, for that was forbidden, and that he most certainly did not do so.

He said he was confident Hinkle would say the same. He said he’d been told Hinkle was on vacation in Hawaii. I’ve been unable to reach Hinkle.

Nelson’s account to the Blue Hog blog is that Hinkle called him “shocked and dismayed” that Kemp had invoked his daughter’s case and asked for campaign money.

Kemp said the daughter’s case came up in that conversation, yes, but in this way: He told Hinkle the case was settled, as Hinkle already knew, and that the only context he was intending to apply was that he was free to ask for Hinkle’s campaign help without that matter pending.

In other words, it’s over, it’s no longer a conflict in our discussion about your helping me in this campaign.

Should Kemp have recused from the daughter’s plea arrangement disposition since he was running for the Supreme Court by that time and would be seeking the father’s support?

“I didn’t see any reason. It was carried over from a year before. I know the Hinkles, of course, but I know the families of a lot of people who come through court. Now, I did recuse from a case – in August, I think – when the case of a child of the woman who does my taxes came through. But that was because of a direct business relationship, which didn’t exist here.”

Should he not have made the subsequent call to Hinkle and invoked the case in any context seeking support?

“It’s what candidates do. You ask people to support you. You don’t ask for money, though, and I didn’t.”

Finally, Kemp reminded me that, in a phone conversation we had last November, he declared himself fairly certain the Goodson forces would find something about which to launch a last-minute smear, and that he told me at that time: “They can damage my reputation. But they can’t damage my character.”

That’s all I have for now. Maybe Hinkle will ring in from Hawaii.

Or maybe the Blue Hog will now post the transcript of the Kemp-Hinkle conversation.

The Blue Hog and Kemp and Goodson and me

The vaunted Blue Hog blogger, an accomplished investigative dynamo who tells me Courtney Goodson was always nice to him when he worked at the Arkansas Supreme Court, has made two attacks on Goodson’s rival for chief justice, Circuit Judge Dan Kemp, the second post seeking to lend perspective to the first.

And now he’s filed a formal complaint with the Judicial Review agency seeking to get Kemp sanctioned.

Here’s the Blue Hog’s charge, summarized: Judge Kemp has a good longtime friend there in his hometown, Mountain View. One of the friend’s daughters faced a drug charge. The prosecutor, as is customary, negotiated a plea to settle the charge. Kemp accepted it. A short while later, the old friend made a campaign contribution to Kemp.

Kemp put out a statement that the prosecutor did the deal and he accepted it and that there was nothing irregular. Happens all the time.

And Kemp pointed out that judge candidates don’t raise their own campaign money and are supposed to try to the extent possible to remain unaware of such things.

The Blue Hog first seemed to intimate a ruling for pay, but came back in the perspective-lending follow-up to say the point was not that. Instead it was, he said, that Kemp should have recused from the matter because of the personal association and a judge’s obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

And the Blue Hog added that Kemp did not tell the truth that the matter was wholly regular because, in fact, the friend’s daughter had a previous criminal record from Faulkner County.

So Kemp responded again in a statement issued by his daughter and campaign manager, who, it appears, is a friend of the defendant’s sister. He said the prosecutor negotiated the deal long before he became a Supreme Court candidate. He dismissed the entire matter as a political hit.

The prosecutor says he did the deal, and that the records data on which the criminal justice system relies showed no previous record for the young woman.

I think three things:

One is that a judge might ought to recuse when presented even with something perfunctory like this affecting a good friend’s daughter, but that a three-decade judge in a town the size of Mountain View is going to be recusing a hell of a lot.

The second is that the plea deal seems to have reached a just disposition of the charge.

The third is that I am simply unpersuaded that this was anything other than routine and that anything about it calls seriously into question the generally stellar reputation of Kemp. I simply do not believe or suspect that he rubber-stamped the deal because of a personal relationship. And I am certain he wasn’t trading for a campaign contribution, which the good friend was going to give him anyway.

I credit the Blue Hog with fair comment, specifically fairer on the second post.

For full perspective, I must relate that I lack any regard for Goodson – or the class-action tactics of her politically hyperactive husband — and am on record in my column favoring Kemp primarily on the basis of the integrity I do not believe to be substantially eroded in this matter.

Oh, and another thing: Let’s put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to stop this damnable election of appellate judges. Vote for a governor you trust to make solid nominations. Actually, I trust Asa Hutchinson in this regard. He’s a good and serious lawyer. He’s too conservative for my personal taste, but, then, so is everybody. Certainly Kemp.

Goodson and Kemp: What a few lawyers think

In 2014, retired prominent lawyer Sam Perroni established a nonprofit entity called the American Foundation for Judicial Accountability to let lawyers rate the judges before whom they’d practiced.

The idea was to refer the raw data to a neutral third-party administrator to compile and make reports so that some outlet would be available to help us assess our elected judges according to the views that lawyers held of them.

Perroni said he’d long regretted that the Arkansas Bar Association gave up such a rating system years ago.

So he created a website where lawyers can go and both rate the judges according to a questionnaire and offer comments that Perroni says must be kept anonymous – regrettably – in order for lawyers to speak freely.

All of that is to say he sends along a special report that the third-party administrator compiled on the current combatants for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court – Associate Justice Courtney Goodson and Circuit Judge Dan Kemp.

The findings somehow manage to be — at once — woefully scarce, uneventfully nondescript and relevantly helpful.

The composite rating of Goodson is based on a mere 14 lawyer participants. The rating of Kemp is based on but 12.

Scant though the findings be, I’d summarize this way: For all the criticisms being leveled at Goodson and Kemp in the current environment, these few lawyers declare them fair and competent generally, but with specific shortcomings.

First, Goodson: She got all 4’s, meeting “most of the time,” to questions about whether she was fair and competent and courteous.

But on the question of whether the Supreme Court generally was inclined to try to achieve a desired result rather than render a decision based on facts and controlling law, the lawyers said, by a 54-46 majority, which seems mathematically to say that not all 14 lawyers answered, that it was more interested in a desired result.

As to whether the Supreme Court “often relies on contrived procedural default to avoid deciding difficult issues,” the participating lawyers said by a 58-42 majority that it relies on contrivance.

That’s fairly serious business – unjust, actually — no doubt reflecting the contrived delay in the same-sex marriage case, which Goodson helped manipulate. It falls in line with former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s public claim that this Supreme Court had become “result-oriented,” meaning it figured out what it wanted to rule and then fashioned some reasoning to back into that predetermined outcome.

This Supreme Court has been troubled aplenty and overly politicized. Goodson is, while courteous and competent and fair in her personal manner, one of the main reasons for that.

Some of the anonymous comments about her: “This judge scares me.” “Has helped bring the Arkansas Supreme Court open for legitimate criticism.” “Knowledgeable, thoughtful, prepared and an outstanding jurist.”

Now, as for Kemp, who gets a little different kind of rating system because he is a trial judge and not appellate judge: He gets all 2’s, meaning “hardly ever,” on negative questions such as whether he is unfair, and all 4’s, meaning “most of the time,” on positive questions such as whether he is competent and even-handed and patient and that he issues clear and understandable orders.

But I was struck by two of the anonymous comments, one that Kemp is “out of his depth when constitutional issues arise” and another that he has difficulty “controlling court.”

Whether those are wrong or right, fair or unfair, insightful or sour grapes, the context is relevant.

Appellate law centers on constitutional issues, not procedural ones.

And I will tell you what would prove hard to control for a person lacking command of a local trial court: This danged Supreme Court, where Associate Justices Goodson, Jo Hart and Karen Baker were so contentious and combative that they wrested control of the entire Justice Building from the gentle, civil, courtly and now-late chief justice, Jim Hannah.

So I offer this highly limited data and these regrettably  anonymous comments as potentially helpful to voters trying to make an informed decision amid all this on-air nonsense and outrage.

You know who I’m for.



Asa and me — what I forgot to say yesterday

Here’s something I should have said yesterday in the blog item about the lunch with, and lecture from, Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

I will concede this much to the governor: It is not entirely contradictory or nonsensical to want to repeal Obamacare – mistake though that be –while wanting to keep the Medicaid expansion money in its current or a new form to spend in your state in your own way, presumably to keep the Medicaid expansion population covered.

It’s trying to have things both ways – your political way, because the easiest currency in Arkansas politics is to assail President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, and your financial way, because the easiest money to afford tax cuts and facilitate the use of general revenue for highways is to keep taking hundreds of millions for health insurance from the federal government.

At least we have a Kasich-ish Republican governor whose exhausting finesses are intended to keep poor people insured and state government flush amid a toxic climate on his own right flank .

The governor asked me to try not to be so cynical.

I’m not cynical. I am confident President Obama is nobly trying to do the right thing on health care, if only the Republicans and the states will let him.


Asa and me — showdown at high noon

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had me out to the Governor’s Mansion at noon today for a knuckle sandwich.

I mean a BLT from Community Bakery.

The purpose was for him to lecture me on my recent column assertions that he can’t claim on the one hand to abhor and want to repeal Obamacare while relying desperately on it on the other hand in order to make his state budget work.

“What’s amazing to me is that you’ve aligned yourself with Conduit for Commerce (an extreme right-wing anti-government group pushing Republican primary opponents for private option supporters),” he began, after the small talk.

“They are going around saying you can’t support ‘Arkansas Works’ (his proposed new name for a conservatized private option form of Medicaid expansion) without embracing Obamacare, and now you’re making their case for them by saying the same thing every day,” he said.

Actually, not exactly. That right-wing outfit is saying you can’t support Medicaid expansion without embracing Obamacare and that Obamacare is awful. I’m saying you can’t support Medicaid expansion without embracing Obamacare and that Obamacare is great. Well, starting to work, and in line to work better as we go along.

And what was that business about my hammering him “every day?” That was hyperbole, I countered.

So he picked up a thick stack of papers that he said represented my recent writings beating him up.

I bet they were triple-spaced to make a bigger pile.

So here is the governor’s position, which I summarized back to him after he’d presented it to make sure I had it. And I had it.

He inherited the “private option.” He did not start it. He was immediately faced with a budget based on its federal money and the prospect of pulling the rug from 200,000 people recently favored with new health insurance.

So he accepted it, provided we would end it in its current form and seek federal approval to do it differently after 2017 with work incentives, personal responsibility for parts of premiums and permission to require recipients working for companies providing employee coverage to use those employer-based plans instead.

So — I interjected — would he have gone along with starting the private option in the first place had he been governor when Mike Beebe was getting it done with Republican legislative moderates?

Asa grinned and said that was a speculative question he didn’t have to answer.

He said he might have said at some point that he wouldn’t have done it, though he couldn’t be certain, but that he wasn’t saying one way or another right now. And he kept grinning.

(He would have started it. That’s how I took that. But he didn’t say that. Which means he can add a printout of this blog post to his thick pile of bad Brummett stuff.)

He said it is “logical and rational” for him to make the best decision for Arkansas in the context of the landscape confronting him, while at the same time opposing the individual mandate and employer mandate of Obamacare – as affronts to “freedom,” he said – and supporting the prevailing position of Republican presidential candidates to repeal and replace Obamcare.

But … he is favorably inclined to the notion to replace the Medicaid expansion element of Obamacare with some kind of block grant to states that gives states enough money and full flexibility to insure people now insured – meaning the 200,000 on Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.

So – I interjected – he was saying he didn’t want Obamacare but did want all of Obamacare’s money without any strings attached.

He said no, sir, he wasn’t locking himself into that amount of money, or any definitive sum. He said states ought to be able to do more with less, given that full state flexibility he seems to see as a panacea.

Anyway, he said, it was impossible to make definitive statements on that now with the presidential race and the membership of the next Senate in such extraordinary flux.

Indeed, Trump or Cruz might be elected, in which case we’d all need to flee to Canada or New Zealand.

I said that. He didn’t.

I have an idea whom he favors among his party’s presidential candidates, but I dare not say.  His life is one big political constraint, one extended exercise in duress and finesse.

Legislators whose votes he desperately needs for the three-fourths appropriation to continue Obamacare – uh, I mean private option . . . uh, I mean Arkansas Works — they are heavily divided among Cruz and Rubio supporters He needn’t offend one group or the other, or both, if he favors someone else.

The bottom line is that Asa’s positon is that he doesn’t want Obamacare but he does want enough federal money to let Arkansas do Medicaid, or its successor, as it chooses, and that he would opt – in that event – to find some way, or some mixture of nobly conservative ways, to keep offering health insurance to the current expansion population.

And there’s another bottom line, which amounts to the governor’s case for re-upping the private option in the looming fiscal session: With the prospect existing that the Republicans can undo Obamacare next year and do Medicaid their way at the state level, let’s dare not retreat right now on the private option and lose any leverage we have next year for doing it in a more conservative and demonstrably efficient way.

Hutchinson intends to say an increment of that Wednesday when he speaks to his health care task force. He also hopes at that time to have a letter in hand from federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell expressing support in principle, subject to particulars, for the permissions he seeks in an eventual waiver – to refer private option recipients to work training, to steer relevant recipients to their employer plans and to require some personal contribution from the population between 100 and 138 percent of poverty.

I got the idea the governor has received some verbal communication of federal receptiveness.

And that reminded Asa: He objects to my calling these requested changes “cosmetic.” He asked: If they were purely cosmetic, why would he be required to apply for a formal waiver?

They could be sufficiently cosmetic that the waiver will be easily won.

But that’s just me.

Finally, on the way out, the governor made the point that his position was not that much different from that of Mike Beebe, who always said he was not crazy about Obamacare altogether but was sure-enough crazy about getting heaps of federal money to expand Medicaid.

There’s a little light between saying you’re not crazy about Obamacare and wanting to repeal it. But I concede Hutchinson a near-point.

I told the governor I was sick and tired of being sick and tired – well, of Obama getting trashed unfairly and Obamacare demonized when it fact it’s a good-faith effort to address a powerful problem and is beginning to show signs that it can work just when people who live off it are trashing it.

He said, well, thanks for coming out.










Slow down, feds tell the mad Medicaid purgers

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told the state last Friday – a week ago today — that it had to stop terminating Medicaid recipients after giving them only 10 days’ notice to object to the state’s admittedly malfunctioning income verification system.

The Hutchinson administration, always keenly interested in the political appearance, insisted on formal written notification – something it could show right-wing legislators to demonstrate that the big bad Obama government was making the state extend this heinous due process to poor people.

Wheels moved slowly, as federal bureaucratic wheels are wont.

CMS apparently wanted to frame a nice-sounding rather than scolding letter because it appreciates that Gov. Asa Hutchinson, rare among Republican governors, intends to try to salvage the private option form of Medicaid expansion.

The final email notification came at the end of the week, and the Hutchinson administration put out a news release this morning saying that, golly, gee whiz, the state has decided to start giving 30 days after new “guidance” from the feds.

That’s euphemistic political speech for: The federal government has told Arkansas to stop being in such an all-fired hurry to achieve its apparent adrenaline rush from taking health insurance from poor people.

There are four persisting issues:

One – The feds apparently are not going to enforce this 30-day policy retroactively and the state has no intention on its own to do that. So the 58,000 or so already thrown off, many no doubt incorrectly, are still out of luck.

Two – Lawsuits are being prepared arguing that the income verification process was unfair and that the notice system was unfair. One will seek class-action status. An argument that due process of law was not followed would seem by my unlicensed legal eye to be made stronger by the disparate treatment given the first batch of notices as compared to the second batch after the federal government said essentially that the first batch was done improperly.

Three – None of this will matter much in the end, some administration officials think, because – 10 days or 30 – a ton of these people are over the income level and will be struck. If so, so be it.

Four – The potential political complication is that Hutchinson is now on record wanting to save the private option but only with  “flexibility” for the state granted by a federal waiver, and now CMS has given the state a little dose of inflexibility.

But it’s two different things – an arbitrary state initiative that is a catastrophe and gets called out by the feds, and a waiver, meaning a written contract, by which the federal government would formally agree in advance to conservatizing principles the state would apply to its private option.

You know, at some point you have to quit coddling the extreme right. You have to take the pacifiers out of the mouths of the troglodytes. You have to take your chances with the smart and correct policy.

Note: I’ll flesh this out and perhaps get really worked for a column Tuesday. Sunday’s is on the right wing’s obsession with Hillary Clinton.



An official Medicaid mess conversation

The Medicaid madness, the mess, continues to leave me nearly flabbergasted.

I would be fully flabbergasted except that I get, to an extent, the pandering right-wing politics that the Hutchinson administration deems necessary.

I’ve had conversations lately with official defenders of this mass purge that is jerking health insurance from 50,000 people.

Let me relate how these conversations typically go:

Them: It is so unfair of me to make an issue of the shortness of a 10-day response period on income verifications before losing health insurance. That’s always been the policy, through numerous Democratic gubernatorial administrations. And it’s the same period used for ending food stamps.

Me: But this isn’t a standard annual income verification process, applied case by case as recipients’ annual dates occur. It is a first-time, one-time, statute-required mass inventory – a “redetermination” — of everybody. Ten days plus mass application of a flawed detection system – that is an entirely different and more irresponsible, and meaner, set of circumstances.

Me, continuing, fired up now: Anyway, the 10-day federal minimum is for Medicaid income verification. These people on the private option are losing private health insurance on the exchange. There are entirely different federal policies requiring longer than 10-day notification periods, but 30 days, for not renewing policies on the exchange.

Them: It’s 30 days. About. Almost. We give 10 days. Then we give five days for the mail. Then five days for us to process. And then they don’t really lost their insurance until the month ends, because they’re paid until then.

Me: Well, 10 plus five plus five is not 30. And they are purged at 20 days, effective at the end of the current month, when, some lawyer is going to argue, they should have been given another 30 days for private policies purchased from the exchange.

Me, getting more worked up: Anyway, regardless of the length of notice, why in the name of the sweet Lord would you jerk health insurance from people with zero income – as your director admits is happening because your software detection thingamajig is, like, screwy?

Them: We have admitted mistakes have been made. I wish you could talk to some of these people who are working to put people back on their insurance because of mistakes like that. Then you wouldn’t be writing the most unfair thing you’ve ever written, which is that we set out to kick ineligible people off health insurance.

Me: But you did. And those people who are working so hard to restore health insurance to persons purged scandalously – good for them. But they are only having to do it because y’all messed up bigtime.

Them: Don’t we deserve credit for putting out the fire we started?

Me: No.


The purge, as I am told and understand

Here is what I get this morning on the horrid private option purge, checking in with Human Services in light of reporting by David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times that you can get purged for having your income move 10 percent either way, even down, assuming you don’t meet the 10-day response deadline to object formally and argue differently:

The best way they tell it to me, and the best way I understand and can relate it, is with a made-up example.

If DHS has your income at, say, 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and you’re on the private option that extends to 138 percent of the poverty level, and then if a computerized crosscheck with data at Workforce Services has you at 140 percent of the poverty level, thus ineligible for the private option, then what we have there is a more than 10 percent difference that overlaps the threshold, making you eligible by one piece of data and ineligible by another, and so you get a letter.

If you don’t respond to argue that the 140 percent assertion is wrong, or give notice that you intend to so argue, then, after TWENTY days, meaning the basic 10 plus five allowed for mail delivery both ways and five allowed for the processing cluster at DHS, then, yes, by the end of the month, you’re off.

You could still appeal after that and, under federal law, get 90 days. I think.

Now, the governor’s office and DHS argue that this is nothing new — that annual income verification is required by federal law, that a new state law insisted upon by private-option favoring Republicans required the current “redetermination,” and that 10 days is the longstanding state standard.


What’s new is this mass one-time legislatively required redetermination. It’s one thing to do a deliberate and credible check each year when renewal time arrives for recipients. It’s another to send out tens of thousands of letters at once and purge 35,000 because you didn’t hear back.

I’m all for income verification. I don’t mind one-time “redetermination” if it’s done in an orderly way.

I do mind a hard deadline and jerking of health insurance because two state agencies have different sets of data and a guy didn’t respond because he didn’t get the letter or didn’t understand. Poor people move around. Poor people — like other people — are not universally fluent in bureaucratese.

All other factors aside, we are enduring this mean madness to try to accommodate the right-wing that just doesn’t like poor people or helping them.

Everyone has as much right as anyone else to get elected to the Legislature and get really good and cheap health insurance that way.

UPDATE: Oh, and about getting a verification letter if your income differential is more than 10 percent downward: Human Services spokesman Amy Webb says the computer software will indeed cause a “ping” for any 10 percent difference, even downward, but that you only get a letter if one of your reported incomes exceeds 138 percent of poverty. And if Human Services had someone at 140 percent of poverty, they would have been ineligible already. She says Human Services has not explained that well.

UPDATE TWO: David Ramsey, who knows this better than I and gets into the weeds more thoroughly, responds/amplifies on Twitter. I’ll just refer you to his Twitter feed.



Asa’s veneer of niceness and centrism

Asa Hutchinson keeps governing from the right and talking from the center.

That makes him the inverse of Bill Clinton, who once was credited by a labor lobbyist with the splendid dexterity to hug you while urinating on your leg.

There is a vintage Asa emerging.

He says we must save the private option and kill the private option.

He insists that the Legislature recall that bill on religious freedom to discriminate and resend the same bill to him in the same substance but different words. For that he has gay and lesbian advocates cheering him on the Capitol steps, spiking the ball after no gain on the play.

Vintage Asa was on display for the nation Sunday on “Meet the Press.” Hutchinson said on that program that he’s against same-sex marriage but accepting of same-sex marriage and that we must ever couch our attitudes in tolerance.

He said maybe the U.S. Supreme Court would let Arkansas continue to ban same-sex marriage and only require the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally entered into in other states.

That is to say he’s not against recognizing gay marriage but that he is against recognizing gay marriage specifically in the gay-discriminating state where he hopes again to appear on the ballot.

But he wants modern business to know Arkansas is a welcoming place for any gay married couples they might bring here.

And on these revelations about the Clintons and the uranium deal for Russia, Asa said Republicans need to be restrained in talking about it — the deal that stinks to high heaven, that is.

He said the revelation does not appear to amount to a clear quid pro quo but certainly encompasses a ton of money and clearly advances the appearance that the Clintons make a lot of mistakes whenever they wander into the intersection of personal business and politics.

He basically says to be measured when talking about the ethical wasteland of Clintonville.

Asa is for cutting taxes only on the middle class and he is for charging no income tax at all on the portion of a capital gain exceeding $10 million.

He is not for building a big new state prison but he is in favor of building new prison space.

He is against taking away local control. So he will let a bill taking away local control become law.

He is for carrying out the death penalty and he is for putting lethally injected inmates on immediate life support and deferring the pulling of the plug to a task force.

I made up that last one.


The two faces of Tim — UPDATE

Politico reports that Mike Huckabee is lining up campaign staff for his personal rebranding refreshment campaign that will encompass a perfunctory bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

It reports that the lieutenant governor of Arkansas, a veteran Karl Rove-trained political operative named Tim Griffin, will be a paid campaign operative for the Huckster.

Griffin comes close to confirming that this morning to the Democrat-Gazette.

Now, please understand, as I have written previously, that there is ample precedent for the Arkansas lieutenant governor, having nothing to do in a government capacity and getting relatively modest pay, to take outside work – which, in fact, is expressly permitted for that office by law.

And there has been no actual conflict because there was never any real public duty or accountability for the lieutenant governor with which to pose a conflict.

However ….

In Griffin’s case, he recently got appointed by his apparently adoring benefactor, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, to head yet another of Asa’s ad nauseum task forces – this one to gather facts and make recommendations on what if anything the state should do to get out of, or revise somehow, the federal Common Care standards for public schools.

In fact, the task force meets today.

So that’s a real job.

Meantime, this Huckabee character for whom Griffin apparently will toil in a paid campaign operative role started out years ago embracing Common Core, but has since peeled back that support because he needs to champion the right-wing evangelical religious fringe in order to refresh his brand.

And the right-wing evangelical religious fringe has decided amid raging insanity that Common Core is a godless socialist takeover of local public schools by the godless socialist administration of the godless socialist Kenyan who tragically holds the office of American president.

Common Core is a set of uniform goals that schools would endeavor to meet in terms of what kids know at a certain grade level so that a youngster could be moved, say, from Massachusetts to Arkansas and enroll in school in a more or less seamless experience.

Common Core does not presume to tell state and local educators how to achieve those goals. Nor does it permit the federal government to swoop in and start doing any local educating – godless or otherwise.

So is there a conflict there for Griffin in objectively executing a public policy assignment for Hutchinson to assess Common Core while he also works in a political advocacy role for an active presidential candidate whose interest is in distancing himself from, and indeed demonizing, Common Core?

Why, sure, there is. In one role he’s to be objective. In the other he’s to be advocating. Those roles are …. like …. way different. One is to serve the government of all of us. The other is to serve the personal rebranding refreshment interests of an active political candidate.

Unless, that is, Griffin has two faces and two sides his mouth out of which to talk.

UPDATE: I am now reliably advised that Griffin will not be paid by the Huckabee campaign for whatever service it is that he will provide.  I am further advised that his role, whatever it will be, will not be remunerated indirectly through the consulting firm with which he has associated. If that’s the case, then the above blog post falls somewhere between “well, that’s less egregious for sure” and “never mind.”




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