Fisking Mark Darr

January 7, 2014
By

One of my New Year’s resolutions was not to write about Lt. Gov. Mark Darr in 2014.  When I made that resolution, however, I assumed that he would resign.  Which is to say, I assumed that he would not release a beautifully absurd statement, riddled with logical inconsistencies and outright lies, explaining why he should not have to resign.  Once that happened, all resolutions went out the window.

Rather than write a separate rebuttal to his statement, however, let’s do what we love to do and take it apart piece by piece.

LITTLE ROCK – Kim and I would like to thank many people across the state for their calls, texts and prayers during this difficult time. We have been encouraged by your willingness to stand up for us and beside us throughout this process.

I’m not the most religious person around, but if you are praying for Mark Darr not to leave office, you’re kind of missing the point.  Ditto if you’re praying for Arkansans to stop wanting the guy who misused state funds to leave office.

Probably one of the most valuable lessons we have learned over the past few years is the value of friendship.

Also, the value of having access to state-issued credit cards, a campaign account, and state police.

We have been encouraged in good faith to share with the people of Arkansas the factual truth, instead of continuing to remain silent.

Oh, man.  This is going to be good.  Not that he has actually remained silent, however.  He openly admitted in both Joint Audit and the Ethics Commission that he violated state laws regarding reimbursements, campaign finance, and the like.  But, by all means, continue with the (wonderfully redundant) “factual truth.”

I am not downplaying what has occurred, but there is no scandal,

Scandal. noun. “An action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.”  So…yeah, I’m pretty sure that a Lieutenant Governor wasting state funds and getting dinged for 11 separate ethical violations counts as a scandal.

no conspiracy and no malicious intentional disregard of the law.  If there were, it would apparently involve multiple offices and agencies.

Hello, Strawman!  No one suggested there was a conspiracy here.  Far from it; everyone, including me, has suggested that this was simply about Mark Darr’s actions.  The mere fact that he didn’t do all of this as part of a conspiracy or with malice aforethought does not change that he admittedly violated the law.  (Tangent: Paul Bookout was also not part of a conspiracy.  Didn’t save him.)  (Second tangent: Impeachment is available for “gross misconduct in office,” which only requires a flagrant and wanton disregard of the rules.)

It was an oversight that should have been noticed and corrected long before now and by multiple people including myself.

WHY DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE TELL ME I WAS DOING IT WRONG YEARS AGO?!  Also, how is, “someone should have told me” a defense here?

Over the past few months I have been diligently working with various state offices to correct errors that were either directly or indirectly my responsibility, but are no more than unintentional mistakes.

Really?  How about not filing a third-quarter CC&E report?  Was that “diligently working” to correct a problem?

I have walked through the process, worked cooperatively, and taken responsibility, but the facts have not been accurately presented to the public. For the errors I made, I apologize to the people of Arkansas and I will now share the actual facts.

We’re getting both the “factual truth” and the “actual facts.”  I dunno, guys…this feels legit.

First, what has not been stated is that in 2010, I loaned my campaign over $170,000 and had every legal right to raise money and retire that debt.

That has been stated.  See, e.g., here.  And here.  And here.  However, even though Darr had the right to raise money and retire that debt, he had to do it within the strictures of the debt-retirement rules, which the Ethics Commission has already found that you did not.  Kind of an important point there.

This is exactly what I did.

Again, this is demonstrably false.  The agency tasked with determining whether someone properly raised funds to retire campaign debt has already stated — and Darr has already agreed with their conclusion — that he did NOT properly raise money to retire your debt.

Unfortunately, I erred in how I reported those payments and fundraising activities, which has been incorrectly interpreted as my using campaign funds for personal use.

Perhaps, had Darr bothered to go to a single campaign-finance training session, this all could have been avoided.  But he didn’t.  And, as a result, some of his actions were correctly interpreted as personal use of campaign funds.  I mean, at least according to the Ethics Commission.  But what do they know, right?  It’s not like he signed a settlement letter, agreeing with their findings or anything….

When this was brought to my attention, I immediately became pro-active to be transparent and correct those mistakes by requesting that the ethics commission review my previous filings for potential errors, which included filing an ethics complaint on myself.

He requested that they review his filings.  That much is true.  But there’s a big difference between, “hey, will you review my filings and see if I screwed up” and actually putting together a complaint that points out how and where you appeared to screw up.

I want you to know that at the end of the day, the only money that ever came back to me, in whatever form, was a repayment of campaign debt that was legally owed to me.

This is a lie.  He also received improper mileage reimbursements, to the tune of about $9,300.  That is state money that came to him that was not legally owed to him.  He received $5,720.91 in “repayment” above and beyond the amount owed to him from his campaign.  That’s $15,000 worth of a lie right there.

Second, over the past three years I collected almost $10,000 in travel reimbursements that were incorrect. These were reimbursements for official travel.

Another complete lie.  There is nothing that makes commuting to and from Springdale as the Lt. Gov. “official travel.”  It’s a commute, and it’s not reimbursable for a constitutional officer.  There is no gray area here.  No nuance.  It’s set in stone, and in IRS regulations, and calling it “official travel” doesn’t change what it really was.

The error was using my home as the point of origin instead of the Capitol building.

Huh?  I mean, I suppose that is kinda true, since there wouldn’t have been commuting mileage to reimburse had Darr used the Capitol as both the start and finish point of his travel, but this still misses the point.  The error was not in using his home as the point of origin; the error was in claiming that mileage at all.

As Lieutenant Governor I am constitutionally given the same privilege that the Governor has in regards to travel and security.

This is true.  The Governor also doesn’t get to take commuting mileage.  He just happens to have a job important enough that the people of Arkansas give him a house in Little Rock.  Doesn’t change the restriction on mileage, however.

This means that I could have spent tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money over the past three years by using the Arkansas State Police to provide transportation and security.

Now he’s just being disingenuous.  The statute provides that the State Police are responsible for the “safety and security” of the Lt. Gov. and his family, not the “transportation and security.”  The statute also gives the State Police the power to determine how best to provide that security.  Unless Darr is suggesting that there’s a security issue every time he gets on the highway, to suggest that he was entitled to use the State Police as a full-time car service is absurd.  Though, when you’ve got someone taking pictures with his cell phone WHILE DRIVING, I suppose that argument could be made.

I could have also purchased, like my predecessor, a state vehicle which would cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

(A) No, you could not have.  That would have been an illegal exaction.  (B) Bill Halter did not “purchase” a state vehicle, either.  He used one, as previous Lt. Gov.’s had done, and he paid taxes on the personal mileage from day 1.  He was the only constitutional officer to do so at the time.  You really want to compare yourself to him in this regard?

Instead, I decided to use my personal vehicle and was reimbursed mileage an average of $3,000 per year over the past three years.  This saved the taxpayers of Arkansas countless tax dollars.

This is either an attempt at the old bait-and-switch, or Darr is still clueless as to what he actually did wrong.  He was allowed to use his personal vehicle, and receive reimbursement, for mileage accrued driving from Little Rock to other areas for official state business.  He was not allowed to receive reimbursement for the use of his personal vehicle for his commuting mileage, and taking improper reimbursement for mileage that he should not have been paid for was not saving Arkansans anything.  It was costing them money that should not have been spent.

Furthermore, regardless of what his “logic” was behind that decision, it was simply not a legally viable option, both under the Arkansas constitution and under IRS regulations (at least with respect to the commuting mileage).  And, had he opted for use of a state car, he would have had to count the commuting mileage as income and pay taxes on it, which would have flown in the face of the lawsuit his own party filed in 2010.

 The Lieutenant Governor’s office is different in the fact that we submit our payment requests to the State Auditor’s office for payment.  The State Auditor’s office would pay the bill or contact us when something appeared to be inaccurate.

Here we go.  I was waiting for why this was someone else’s fault.

No one in my office was ever contacted to make us aware of the policy regarding the Capitol building being the point of origin instead of my home.

It’s not an Auditor’s Office policy; it’s federal tax law.  You don’t get to take mileage for your commute.  End of story.  Plus, since your requests for mileage reimbursement did not even make it clear to the Auditor’s Office that you were driving to your home in Springdale, how is it incumbent upon them to tell you what you should already know by virtue of being a tax-paying adult with access to accountants, the state Ethics Commission, and the internet?

Furthermore, in a previous annual audit, no findings were issued and the travel reimbursement was not brought to our attention by Legislative Audit.

And Legislative Audit explained this to you in a November 20 conference call.  “Andy tried to explain that the prior audit sample did not identify the travel reimbursement issue and that the travel expenditures were tested as part of a large maintenance and operations sample.  The use of a larger sample for all maintenance and operations expenditures was made due to the lack of any unusual spikes in the trial balance comparison.”

Simply because Darr doesn’t grasp how the audit was performed doesn’t mean that Audit did something wrong or that he is somehow off the hook for taking the improper reimbursements in the first place.

Third, that I misused state funds by using the state credit card for personal expense.

He did.  Ethics said so.  He agreed with them.

These were purchases that were either for official state use or used by mistake while traveling.  As soon as the errors were realized, I reimbursed the state for those charges.

“Mistake.”  “Errors.”  Right.  That’s what Darr claimed in June 2011, when he suddenly “realized” that he had been using the state-issued gas card for personal mileage since January, and he sent checks totaling $1,342.92 to the state and the credit-card company to reimburse them.  In April and May of 2012, he used his state-issued credit card “out of error” for $436.14 in gas.  Then he went right along, continuing to use that same credit card for that same purpose until early August, to the tune of an additional $1500+ in personal use of the state-credit card.

To paraphrase Gov. Beebe, doing something like this once or twice might be a mistake.  Doing it over and over, even after you’ve acknowledged that you aren’t allowed to do so, is a course of conduct.  Repaying the money after the fact is nice and all, but it only goes to show that you knew well ahead of all of this investigation that you weren’t supposed to use the card for your personal miles.

 For some unknown reason, it appears that the State Auditor’s office failed to deposit one of the checks, for which I have proof of payment. I will gladly resubmit this check.

Ok. Great. It was still improper use of the card.

These three facts are not worthy of my removal from office and certainly not worthy of personal attacks on my character and on my family.

We just veered completely off the rails here.  Who is attacking his family about this?

As for whether “these three facts” support removal from office, (A) the stuff he is throwing out here is “fact” isn’t factual and (B) he has already admitted to overpaying himself from campaign funds in the name of debt retirement, admitted to taking thousands in mileage that he was not entitled to take, and admitted that he was not allowed to use the credit cards in the manner that he did.  His spin on why these were not big deals does not change the fact that he was found to have violated eleven state ethics/campaign laws and to have improperly received thousands of dollars from the state.

The cost of a special election would be in excess of one million dollars.

Irrelevant to whether he should resign or should be impeached.  The cost, unfortunately, is one the state will have to bear for his actions.  It’s not a valid reason for him to not be removed from office.

This cost coupled with the facts that I have outlined concerning my actions, convince me that I should stay in office.

Since when does he care about wasteful use of tax dollars?  And, again, the “facts” are what they are.  And they aren’t what he seems to want them to be.

I believe that this course would be best for the state.

I disagree.  I believe that the impeachment of a constitutional officer who violated specific, clearly defined rules regarding campaign and state funds might serve as a deterrent for future officers who consider doing the same, and I hope that it might spur the legislature to propose and amendment to abolish the pointless Lt. Gov. office altogether.

Today I put a stake in the ground.

O…kay….

Not for this office, not for the title or the job, but I put a stake in the ground for those Arkansans who are sick and tired of these types of political games and the people who play them.

Political games?  Holding an elected official accountable for his failure to follow the law and his waste of state funds is a “political game”?  Interesting.  This literally sounds like, “Yes, I broke the law.  And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky liberals!”  Whether Darr would have gotten caught is wholly irrelevant to the question of whether he broke the law and whether he should leave office.

It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come.

Considering that, if impeached, Darr will be required to repay the state for the entire cost of the impeachment proceedings, I’d guess that he might regret staying even more.

I am a normal citizen, who ran for office, who is trying to do my job to the best of my ability with integrity and character.

I would believe this more if he hadn’t publicly said that the office is a “part-time job” and had actually shown up Monday through Friday, 8 to 5.  I don’t think working a day or two a week and never being at the Capitol is “trying to do [his] job” in any way other than the laziest manner possible.

I am doing what is necessary to make things right and I have a peace in sharing the truth with you today.

This is amazing.

This has been an embarrassing time for my family and me and when history is recorded I want my children to know that I have owned up to mistakes and made them right.

I’m sure the kids will be super proud that their dad used the “I didn’t know what the rules were and didn’t bother to ask anyone” and “someone should have told me earlier” defenses.

Thank you Kim and so many others for encouraging me to share the truth.

That word, “truth.”  You keep using it.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

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