I assume two things about Lt. Gov. Mark Darr’s appearance before the Ethics Commission on Wednesday: (1) You’ve heard about it more than once already; (2) You’re still kinda curious about the 12 violations of law for which the Ethics investigator found probable cause.
Last things first, it’s important to keep in mind that, for some of the statutes listed here, there are multiple violations. As the investigator noted in the hearing, if the Commission finds probable cause to believe that one of the mileage reimbursements was improper, then, by definition, all of them were improper. For a frame of reference, here is my original complaint. Now, without further ado:
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-203(g): Taking campaign funds as personal income. The report noted $5,720.91 in campaign funds that were taking for liabilities that would have existed regardless of his running for office.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-203(a)(2)(A): Acceptance by a candidate for Lt. Gov. of contributions from a single donor greater than $2000.00. The report found three donors who had given the maximum $2,000.00 for Darr’s campaign and another $2,000.00 for debt reduction, in violation of Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-219(a)(2).
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-203(f): Acceptance of campaign contributions more than two years removed from a candidate’s next election. The report found $5,720.91 in donations and in-kind contributions that were for a purpose other than debt reduction and noted “improper controls” to ensure that all post-election activity complied with these rules.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-203(h)(5): Acceptance of funds after the 2010 election, though ostensibly related to that election, for purposes other than the retirement of debt. The $5,720.91 in the previous violation overlaps with this one.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-206: Failure to keep records of all contributions and expenditures in a manner sufficient to evidence compliance with §§ 7-6-207 through -210. The report noted that many of the 400+ transactions throughout the campaign lacked proper documentation.
Ark. Code Ann. §§ 7-6-207(b)(1)(E) & (H): Failure to properly itemize certain expenditures over $100.00 and failure to properly total all non-itemized expenditures made during a filing period. According to the report, Darr failed to itemize six loan repayments totaling $9,700.00; failed to keep appropriate documentation for 18 expenditures totaling $15,267.29; contained another $3,098.40 in non-itemized expenses that were not properly documented; and contained totals for non-itemized expenditures that were inaccurate.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-207(b)(1)(D): Failure to list the name and address of someone who made a contribution or contributions that in the aggregate exceeded fifty dollars. This was based on Darr’s allowing his PAC to pay for a hotel reservation without counting it as a contribution.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-207(b)(1)(C): Failure to list a contributor’s principal place of business, employer, and occupation. The report noted that Darr had used “Unk.” for those fields on many, many contributors to his debt-retirement fund-raising.
Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-219(c): Failure to file a campaign contribution and expenditure report concerning a campaign debt where, since the last report concerning the debt, the person has received cumulative contributions in excess of five hundred dollars ($500). This was Darr’s failure to file a CC&E for the third quarter of this year. (His excuse was, apparently, that he was waiting for the Ethics complaint to be resolved. Not that one has anything to do with the requirements of the other.)
Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-304(a): Use of his official position to secure special privileges for himself. This was related to personal use of a state-issued credit card totaling $3,532.60 and for having a member of his staff drive him from Fayetteville to Little Rock on March 27, 2012.
Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-304(a): Use of his official position to secure special exemptions for himself. The report found that $3,577.56 in improper mileage reimbursements was improper as extra income under Ark. Const. Amend. 70, § 1(a).
It’s worth noting that Todd Elder did a tremendous job with the investigation. Keeping the money piles straight and accounting for everything was yeoman’s work, considering how little documentation he had to work with.
Other odds and ends:
- The report discussed Darr’s purchase of Arkansas Razorbacks football season tickets without paying the standard “donation”[foot]What a crock of shit.[/foot] to the Razorback Foundation is a “special privilege” within the meaning of the statute. The report suggested that, because the previous opinion on the issue did not address it squarely, the Ethics Commission might want to re-examine that scenario and issue a clear ruling on it.
- Any suggestion by Darr or his attorney that the personal use of campaign funds wasn’t improper because it was money that Darr owed himself is disingenuous at best. The report specifically found that, even treating the personal expenditures as repayment of personal debt, Darr overpaid himself by $5,720.91 (see the first violation in the list above).
- Mr. Elder mentioned in his presentation of the report that, had Darr called early on and asked how to handle accounting for debt-retirement, the standard answers from Ethics that any candidate would receive would have answered the vast majority of the questions raised here and (hopefully) would have prevented the same.
- Elder didn’t say it, but I will: the fact that Darr didn’t ask how to do the debt-retirement fund-raising and now wants to play the “I just didn’t know it was wrong” card as an excuse is absurd. There’s a difference between being ignorant of the methods for doing something that you had no reason to know how to do and being ignorant of how to do something that the law specifically requires you to do properly and that several free resources can help you figure out.
- Somewhat related, in one of the conference calls with Legislative Audit, Darr complained that he was “being screwed” by not being allowed to take mileage for his work commute, then said that he would be using the State Police “to his benefit” more often. Thing is, the law requires the State Police to provide transportation for the Lt. Gov. only for safety purposes, and it leaves the determination to them as to how best to ensure his safety. I really hope, now that everyone knows about his petulant response, the powers-that-be at the ASP tell him to pound sand if he starts asking for weekly rides to and from work.
- [UPDATE] I’m pretty sure Mike Masterson and I wouldn’t agree on many political issues. So, seeing him offer kudos to me in the Dem-Gaz this morning regarding this Darr stuff was both unexpected and quite revealing. If Masterson has turned on Darr, I would wager that the ARGOP can’t be too far behind. Even Doyle Webb is unlikely to double-down on Darr when the conservative writers at the paper are on the other side of things.