Cody Hiland currently serves as Prosecuting Attorney for Faulkner and Van Buren counties. While technically a non-partisan office, prosecuting attorney is not an office that has near as many limitations on political activities as, say, running for Court of Appeals does.
Arkansas Rule of Judicial Conduct 4.1(A)(6) prohibits a judicial candidate from publicly identifying himself as a member of a political party. Which might have made it a little strange if you live in Conway and saw this in your mailbox:
Of course, you don’t have to vote in the Republican primary to vote for Cody Hiland. If you live in the right district, you can vote for him in any primary–including a non-partisan ballot. That said, this mailer might not have caused you too much pause; after all, Hiland has made no secret of his Republican leanings, with seemingly every billboard and sign between Conway and Clinton, to say nothing of his website and Facebook page, touts him as a Conservative.[footnote]Almost always with a capital C, because…Reagan? Something like that.[/footnote]
What might throw you off a little, given what you know about Hiland’s political leanings, would be if you lived in Clinton and you received this mailer:
Look, the lack of proper punctuation or the word “on” notwithstanding, Hiland would have been totally fine saying “vote for Cody Hiland Tuesday, March 1st.” He would have been totally fine[footnote]Again, not accounting for the lack of punctuation or the word “on.”[/footnote] saying “vote for Cody Hiland Tuesday, March 1st[,] in the primary election.” He could even have said to vote for him “in the non-partisan primary,” though that wouldn’t be a particularly helpful campaign message.
The only thing he could not do was to “publicly identify himself…as a candidate of a political organization.” Meaning that these mailers appear to being two violations of Rule 4.1(A)(6).
In fact, to the extent one might argue that merely referencing the Democratic or Republican primaries does not definitively identify Hiland as a candidate of those parties, you still have the issue of Rule 4.1(A)(11), which, as we discussed in the posts about Dan Kemp, prohibits “knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, mak[ing] any false or misleading statement.”If these mailers are not actual identification of Hiland as a candidate of those parties, they are almost certainly misleading statement designed to give that impression.
While we’re here, there is also this:
That’s…not good. Rule 4.1(A)(3) specifically, unequivocally says that a judicial candidate cannot “publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office.” Hiland is a judicial candidate. Tim Ryals is a candidate for public office. Hiland’s endorsement is improper on its face.
Just as I was about to wrap up this post, I thought to myself, given how lax Hiland has been in following the judicial rules, I bet I can find something improper in his campaign finance reports in under five minutes of searching. Sho’nuff:
I know shady PACs well enough to know that there’s no such thing as a registered Eddie Joe Williams PAC. There is a PAC called GoEddieJoePAC[footnote]The intentional lack of spaces makes it much harder to find for the average person using the Secretary of State’s horrendous website.[/footnote]–
–but, obviously, that’s not the same thing. A candidate cannot put the wrong name on a PAC on a CC&E. So, I suppose Mr. Hiland should consider this his “should have known” notice for purposes of the Ethics Commission’s affirmative defense.
As for the judicial-rule violations, if someone from Hiland’s district wants to file a complaint over those, you can do so here.