Remember that time when Alex Reed was part of the Pulaski County Election Commission and then, less than two hours after this post, he wasn’t? Man, those were the days. Seems like only yesterday, really.
But, then . . . there was something odd about Reed’s combat-speed departure from the commission seat to which he had been elected by the Pulaski County Republican Committee[foot]Tagline: Rarely Relevant Since Reconstruction![/foot]. From Mark Darr to Mike Maggio, the one constant when it comes to Republicans whose wrongdoing has been exposed is that they either deny or say nothing until saying something becomes absolutely mandatory. Those around them also stay quiet, and they certainly do not throw their own under the bus.[foot]Because intellectual honesty is amazingly overrated when you are an Arkansas Republican.[/foot]
Anyway . . . point is, the quick resignation and rapid-fire explanations and excuses did not fit with what we know generally. Worse, those explanations really did not make a lot of sense when put in context of the verifiable facts of the whole situation; if anything, those excuses and explanations raised far more questions than they answered.
And what better way to spend our collective Monday morning than to toss some of those questions around and see what we can piece together?
1. Why did this conflict/relationship exist at all?
Unless the answer to this question is particularly surprising, it is probably the least-interesting question that still needs to be answered, but it is our starting point nonetheless. What I mean is, imagine that you are State Rep. Ann Clemmer. When Tim Griffin decides he wants to spend more time with his family[foot]By being the least-important statewide elected official in Arkansas![/foot], you think, “hey, I should totally run for U.S. Congress . . . but I’ll need a treasurer for that campaign.” Now, who do you pick? (A) A barely competent boob who already works for the Arkansas Secretary of State, has zero experience as treasurer for a federal campaign, and only got his current job[foot]Which he is laughably bad at[/foot] because Alice Stewart departed for some Quixotic Republican presidential bid, or (B) pretty much any one of 10,000 better choices in Arkansas?
Stated differently, what does Roland Alexander Reed bring to your Congressional campaign — aside, perhaps, from his ties to the Secretary of State’s office, which isn’t something that should matter — that a more qualified, less conflicted treasurer would not also have offered?
Related to that thought, if you assume that the Secretary of State’s office knew that Reed was moonlighting for Ms. Clemmer — which seems like a reasonable assumption, given the office’s requirement that all outside employment be approved by a supervisor — why would they sign on off on it? Oh, sure, that’s an office that has made it clear on a macro level that they don’t really care if an employee’s outside employment is on state time or presents an obvious conflict of interest, but still. Reed is the communications guy. He’s the bespectacled face of every message that the office issues. Did they not consider that having him involved in a congressional campaign might either eat into his work time or, more likely, raise some weird conflict issues, given the Secretary’s role in Arkansas elections?[foot]Of course they didn’t. That requires self-awareness, foresight, and pretending to care if your actions look sketchy.[/foot]
Similarly, why would Reed, already an employee of the Secretary of State, seek and/or accept the position with Ms. Clemmer’s campaign? More importantly, once he was already working for her campaign, why would he seek and/or accept the position as the token Republican on the Pulaski County Election Commission? Even if you assume that he was completely unaware of the law that prevented him from being on the commission — which is contrary to what he has said so far — shouldn’t someone involved in the process have tipped him off or asked him if there was anything that might cause a conflict of interest?
2. What did Ann Clemmer know and when did she know it?
According to her press release last Friday, Ms. Clemmer learned of Reed’s unauthorized disbursements, “During the preparation of [her] latest FEC report.” That report was filed on April 15, so it sounds like Ms. Clemmer wasn’t aware of any problems with campaign funds until some time in early April. If that is the case, and Reed was not dismissed from the campaign until after April 15 (so that it was not improper for him to be listed as the treasurer on the 4/15 filing), then she is probably not going to face near as much scrutiny from the FEC, aside from questions about the “loan” from Reed. But we’ll come back to that.
On the other hand, Reed has stated that he was no longer with Ms. Clemmer’s campaign as of the date that he was selected to the Pulaski County Election Commission. He took that seat on March 4. If Clemmer’s statement is read to mean that Reed was removed from the campaign because of the unauthorized disbursements, and if Reed is taken at face value[foot]Which, let’s be honest, should never be the default setting when dealing with SOS employees.[/foot], then does that mean that Clemmer knew about the theft in early March? Because that would be a much bigger deal: there are multiple unauthorized disbursements after March 4, and her failure to take steps to prevent future theft (i.e. everything taken after March 4) in the face of actual knowledge of the prior theft would raise ethical and FEC concerns.
At the end of the day, I suspect that Ms. Clemmer is telling the truth and that she did not know about Reed’s actions until some time in early April. Which leads us to…
3. When did Alex Reed actually stop serving as treasurer?
As mentioned, Reed claims that he was not part of the Clemmer campaign as far back as March 4. If he is telling the truth about that, there are multiple problems for Ms. Clemmer, not the least of which is that thirteen of the contributions to her campaign on the 4/15 report came after March 4. Under federal election rules, “A committee cannot raise or spend funds there is a vacancy in the office of treasurer.” Further,
If a committee deposits[foot]Now, given that it is the treasurer’s job to make deposits of contributions, it is unclear how these contributions could have even been deposited if Reed wasn’t there, but let’s keep playing along with his scenario all the same.[/foot] a contribution that appears to be legal and later discovers that it is prohibited (based on new information not available when the contribution was deposited), the committee must disgorge the contribution within 30 days of making the discovery.
Also, there’s the rather large matter of Reed’s having signed the 4/15 report as treasurer for the campaign. FEC Form 3, right there on page 1, requires a treasurer to attest that the report is true, correct, and complete to the best of his knowledge. It then notes, “Submission of false, erroneous, or incomplete information may subject the person signing this Report to the penalties of 2 U.S.C. 437g.”
Plus, if Reed was no longer with the campaign as of March 4, you have to assume that Ms. Clemmer was aware of his departure, even if she was not aware of the unauthorized disbursements at that point. Why would she allow someone to sign as campaign treasurer if he was no longer serving in that role?
Conversely, if Reed was still technically campaign treasurer at least through April 15, his blatant statement to the contrary would be little more than a lie designed to cover his knowingly taking a position with the Commission in violation of state law. Given that Secretary of State Mark Martin theoretically relies on Reed to be somewhat credible when making statements on behalf of the office, lying to cover-up your improper selection to the election commission, as well as taking money from a federal campaign, would seem to make it very hard to keep Reed employed in that role.[foot]Again, this assumes that the Secretary of State’s Office even pretends to care about credibility and public appearances. Which, I suppose, is a dubious assumption at best.[/foot]
4. Where is the other $10,483.62?
The aforementioned “loan” from Reed to the campaign was for $20,007.83, but the 23 unauthorized disbursements in the 4/15 report total $9,524.21, leaving $10,483.62 unaccounted for. Additionally, the FEC website (and the description of the “loan” on the 4/15 report) refer to the payment from Reed as “Repayment of Unauthorized Disbursements – Paid Off On 4/15/14.”
Since this report only covers transactions made between 1/1/14 and 3/31/14, one could reasonably conclude that the remaining money was taken by Reed between 4/1 and some date prior to 4/15. That would make the most sense, anyway. Though it would also mean a marked increase in the rate at which Reed was stealing money from the campaign, going from $9,500 over three months to $10,500 in less than two weeks.
There is also the question of where Roland Alexander Reed got $20,007.83 to repay the unauthorized disbursements. According to the transparency website, Reed makes $53,184.91 per year. He earned $100 per Commission meeting as I understand it for his time on the Pulaski County Election Commission. He references student loans and a car payment on his Statement of Financial Interest. He lists no investments or other sources of income on the SFI. His address is an apartment complex in Little Rock, so it’s pretty certain that he pays rent. It is almost impossible to believe that, under these circumstances, Reed had $20,007.83 just lying around, liquid, available to spend.
5. Why was Reed’s repayment classified as a loan at all?
This is probably the strangest unresolved question of the whole matter. Federal rules only allow loans to a campaign from (a) the candidate herself or (b) financial institutions that make such loans in the normal course of their business. Loans from other people — including family members of the candidate — are treated as contributions and are subject to the $2,500 per election limits. A “loan” from Reed for over $20k would be illegal on its face.
Even ignoring the facial illegality, it does not make sense to call this a loan — or to pretend like the unauthorized disbursements were repayments of that loan — when it was made on 3/31/14, after 23 disbursements had already been made. How could Ms. Clemmer’s campaign be repaying a loan through January, February, and March when the loan had not been made?
Likewise, classifying this payment as a loan is nonsensical in light of the description attached to it, that it was for “Repayment of Unauthorized Disbursements.” If you take money that is not yours, and then, when confronted, you pay it back, your repayment is in no way a loan to the person you stole from.
(As an aside, repaying that money would also not obviate Reed from any criminal charges, were the authorities inclined to file them. The crime of theft is complete when the person takes or exercises unauthorized control over, or makes an unauthorized transfer of an interest in, the property of another person, with the purpose of depriving the owner of the property. Subsequent repayment doesn’t unring that bell.)
6. What becomes of Alex Reed’s SoS employment?
At this point, it appears that we can say with some degree of certainty that (1) Alex Reed stole $20,007.83 from the Clemmer campaign; (2) Reed took a position with the Pulaski County Election Commission while working for the campaign, despite admittedly knowing that such overlap was illegal; and (3) Reed has lied to the press about various dates and actions since this story first broke on Friday.
We also know that the primary function of Reed’s job is to be the communications person for the Secretary of State’s Office, giving quotes to media about the issues of any given day.
Now, even in an office like Martin’s, where it is apparently fine for Augustine J. Kelly to be the city attorney for Fairfield Bay while still on state time in his role with the SoS, don’t Reed’s actions have to cross some kind of line that make it impossible for the SoS to keep sending him out on their behalf? Otherwise, the next time there is a question about whether something the SoS did was legal, who is going to listen to Reed’s response and not immediately doubt his veracity?