AR-Sec. State: A Brief Lesson In Grammar, Punctuation, & Syntax For Rep. Mark Martin

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    After Pat O’Brien suggested that Mark Martin owed the public a full accounting of the expenses and mileage for which Martin was reimbursed, especially with respect to Martin being reimbursed for attending meetings that were apparently optional (i.e. Martin was not a member of the committee that was meeting), Martin fired off a reply that can charitably be described as grammatically challenged.  I’m not sure whether Martin was so blinded by rage that he could not proofread the press release before he sent it out or if he was just too busy demonstrating a total lack of understanding of the Arkansas tax code, but, whatever the case, I thought I would help him out.

    MARTIN RESPONDS TO O’BRIEN[‘S] “CHICAGO-STYLE” [Quotation marks are generally for direct quotes or to indicate ironic usage; they are not used for slang unless foreign to the reader’s vocabulary (see Chicago Manual of Style Rule 7.61)] ATTACK

    O’Brien pre-empts [sic; “empts” is not a word, and “preempts” is not hyphenated (see CMS 7.90, sec. 3)] release of FOI’ed [sic; “Freedom of Information’ed”? (see generally CMS 7.14 & 15.9)] documents

    Little Rock, Ark. (Sept. 22, 2010) – Rep. Mark Martin of Prairie Grove responded to the attack by Pat O’Brien today.  [Mr. (CMS 8.35)] O’Brien accused Rep. Martin of not accounting for his travel expenses.

    “Pat O’Brien’s accusations are those of a desperate and losing candidate, [incorrect comma usage (CMS 6.38)] who is looking to divert the eyes [Huh? Whose eyes? –Ed.] from his record [Do you mean “by” or “of”? (see generally CMS 5.162)] utilizing Chicago-style attacks that he must have learned while working for Barack Obama. Mr. O’Brien[,] in his statement[,] showed that he is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst. He previously had stated that he receives $650 per month for a car allowance in lieu of accepting travel re-imbursements [sic; “imbursements” is not a word, and “reimbursements” is not hyphenated (see CMS 7.90, sec. 3)], but today he says [that] he only accepted $4805.67 in travel re-imbursements [sic; see previous discussion of “imbursements”]. If [Mr. O’Brien; (see generally CMS 5.35)] is [was; (CMS 5.117)] to be believed previously, then he has been receiving $7,800 per year for mileage within his home county,” Martin stated.

    OK, even though I hadn’t planned on doing extra commentary in this post, please allow me a brief aside.  O’Brien specifically referred to his “reimbursements for travel-related expenses.”  The $650/month that O’Brien receives is, as Martin noted, an allowance.  It is certainly income, which is why O’Brien has paid taxes on it, but it is not a reimbursement (which, incidentally, would not be taxable and would make Martin’s subsequent demands for proof of O’Brien’s tax payments nonsensical).  Thus, O’Brien’s statement regarding his total reimbursements is not incorrect. What is incorrect is Martin’s assertion that the $7,800 was “for mileage;” a car allowance is for mileage, maintenance, insurance, and (in some cases) gasoline.

    If Martin wishes to add the $7,800/year to O’Brien’s six-year total of $4805.67, then O’Brien’s total allowances-plus-reimbursements for his entire six years in office is is $51,605.67, which is only 92% of the $56,290 claimed by Martin in 2009 alone.  Now, where was I?

    “Furthermore, Mr. O’Brien is also [redundant when used with “furthermore”] exploiting the fact that I live far from Little Rock and [that,] when a legislative session lasts for months, then [unnecessary (see CMS 5.182)] all legislators who live outside central Arkansas and [who] can’t drive home at night are re-imbursed [sic; see previous comment regarding “imbursements,” supra] to stay in Little Rock and do our jobs. I’m not sure why he [Mr. O’Brien] wants to disadvantage non-Pulaski County legislators.

    “In regards [sic; “in regards to” is improper, try “in regard to” or, even better, “regarding” (see generally CMS 5.164 & 5.165)] to traveling to committee meetings that you [sic; if quoting O’Brien directly, use quotation marks and change “you are” to “I am” in brackets (CMS 11.14)] are not a part of, I have several bills and issues that constituents have asked me to follow and provide input [Provide input to whom?]. I don’t control what bill gets assigned to what committee for interim study, where those committees meet, or when they meet[.]  Mr. O’Brien needs to discuss his issue [sic; “this issue”? “his concerns”?] with Speaker Wills and the Democratic majority if he has issue of [sic; “(‘an issue’ or ‘issues’) with] when and where committees meet.

    “There is nothing [vague; “no documentation”] to release as he [vague pronoun; “Mr. O’Brien” is preferable (see generally CMS 5.35)] requests, [incorrect comma usage] because the Democratic Party of Arkansas has already FOI’ed [sic; see comment in subtitle, supra] all [unnecessary] those documents. [Revise previous sentence for clarity.] All he [vague pronoun (see generally CMS 5.35)] needs to do is request those documents from his state party.  Pat [Mr. O’Brien, both for consistency and to avoid sounding petulant] needs to stop playing games like this [How should he play games if not “like this”? Revise sentence, and consider deleting it entirely.].

    “Mr. O’Brien needs to comply with the Republican Party of Arkansas’s [f]reedom[]of[][i]nformation request about [sic; “for”] his leave requests, [and] leave policy, document[ation] that he is having income tax withheld from his paycheck [wordy; “documentation of tax withholdings”] for his car allowance as he as stated [unnecessary], and the other issues [sic; “documents” makes more sense, as the RPA did not submit a “request for … the other issues.”] outlined in the FOI [request].

    “Finally, he [overuse of pronoun] also needs to explain why he is targeting rural legislators for being required to come to Little Rock.  It may be easy for his Little Rock liberal legislators to get to the Capitol, but[,] when you live in a rural area as I do, it is a long drive.”

    Last digression, I promise.  Suggestion that O’Brien is “targeting rural legislators for being required to come to Little Rock” is simply asinine.  Not only is O’Brien not targeting “rural legislators” as a group, he is most certainly not targeting anyone “for being required to come to Little Rock.”  Perhaps Martin meant “rural legislators who are required to come to Little Rock.”  Or perhaps Martin just continues to deflect O’Brien’s criticisms by ridiculously playing the oppressed victim speaking out on behalf of other “rural legislators.”

    Martin added, “During 2009, I served as the Republican Whip throughout the year, which required [The year required something? Make clear what noun your “which” references.] me to attend meetings on behalf of the GOP leadership.  I’m not surprised that O’Brien has [an] issue with Republicans conducting oversight of [wordy; “overseeing”]the Democratic majority in the legislature.”

    See the attached map for re-imbursements [sic; buy a computer that has spellcheck] by how far legislators live from the Capitol.

    I don’t expect any candidate on either side to always have perfect grammar, punctuation, and syntax, nor do I think that the occasional grammatical gaffe is a big deal.  However, I also don’t think it is asking too much to expect a candidate for statewide office to take the time to either proofread his own work or have someone who knows the basics — and will avoid something as simple and ridiculous as “re-imbursed” — to review the candidate’s documents.  That is especially true where, as here, the document is designed to rebut the candidate’s opponent’s claims and to paint the opponent as incorrect and deceitful; that kind of message loses some effectiveness when it reads like it was written by an eighth-grader.