Yesterday, someone who I thought understood the reimbursement issue fairly well said to me, in attempting to sum up the entire series of posts, “The issue is the hypocrisy, not just the bogus reimbursements.” I was taken aback by the sheer absurdity of this statement. I mean, I struggle to comprehend how political hypocrisy is somehow more important than regular, monthly, constitutionally improper payments made to 130 members of Arkansas’s legislature.
After all, hypocrisy among politicians happens quite often, on a whole host of issues. It’s so normal an occurrence that it barely registers a blip on a daily news cycle, especially outside the blogosphere, and it absolutely lacks the staying power to register appreciably on a monthly news cycle. Illegal payments, totaling over $2 million per year, which are highly likely to give rise to an illegal exaction suit, however? Those are not exactly commonplace, nor is a story about them the type of tale that needs the added sex appeal of hypocrisy to gain traction.
All of this got me thinking about Dan Greenberg’s email again, though. Dan is a very smart guy, and even he seemingly missed the big-picture point of these posts, arguing that the payments were legit under the reimbursement statute, while ignoring the implications of Amendment 70. Based on what I was hearing from Dan and others, it seemed as if the fact that I’d pointed out particularly egregious or ridiculous billing practices was overshadowing the reason that I broke the story in the first place.1
At this point, I suppose I have to blame myself for throwing up too many trees to allow some people2 to properly see the forest. The only way I know to fix that problem is to chop some of those metaphorical trees down.
To that end, I am archiving some of the reimbursement-related posts that focused too much on what specific people were doing. Sure, it’s all well and good to laugh at the ridiculousness of David Meeks’s being consulted by his wife for $2000/month, but not if it causes anyone to forget that the problem is not really her lack of qualifications, but his lack of any documentation for the bill.
Don’t get me wrong here, however: I do not apologize for anything that was written, because I don’t think that anything written warrants an apology. Nor do I think any of it was incorrect or improper; if anything, I think a lot of it could have been helpful in exposing just how little substantiation there actually was. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened, at least with some people. For me, the big picture is too important to risk it being missed just because someone submitted a blank invoice.
1 Author’s note: Yes, I am aware that a whole lot of people realized how exorbitant the reimbursements received were, thanks in large part to the Democrat-Gazette’s reporting on the issue. However, to my knowledge, I was the first person to lay out exactly why those payments were not just excessive, but also illegal under Amendment 70. I’m not trying to toot my own horn; I’m merely pointing out that knowing about the reimbursements generally does not mean that the story I’ve put together was known.
2 I say “some people” because I am fully aware that many (most?) of you did get it from the very beginning.