Ethics Commission to hold Probable Cause Hearing on Gov. Hutchinson

sad asa

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Governor Asa Hutchinson is in Cleveland tonight to speak at the GOP convention in support of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Hutchinson, along with other state-level luminaries such as Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, trekked up to the shores of the Cuyahoga River with impunity, in large part because of an earlier Ethics Commission ruling that campaigning on state time for federal candidates was not barred by state law because those candidates were not actually candidates.1

While the other Arkansans in Ohio can take their time getting back after the convention ends Thursday night, however, Gov. Hutchison might want to hurry back. After all, his probable-cause hearing before the Arkansas Ethics Commission is scheduled for 9am on Friday, July 22.

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Let’s back up.

In February, I wrote this post about the ethics complaint against Ms. Rutledge and inveterate scofflaw Dennis Milligan’s travel to Iowa to campaign for Mike Huckabee. That post went up on Thursday, February 11.

On Monday, February 15, I got a message from my office:

Asa Call_Redacted

Somewhat intrigued, I called the number and, to my surprise, it was the Governor’s direct line, and he answered the phone himself. Some pleasantries were exchanged and then…

Actually, wait. You don’t need to take my word for how the call went; I have it right here, so you can listen to it.

In case you are unable to listen to the recording, or maybe you just want the Cliff’s Notes version, the long and short of the phone call is that the Governor “followed with interest and read [my] latest treatise on the history of that one law.” The reason for his call was to ask how a governor could comply with the law, given that governors wanted to campaign for candidates who would support the governor’s agenda. Some more choice tidbits from the call:

  • He asked how Bill Clinton could run for President while he was governor, given that the law was in effect at that time. I suggested that maybe no one had raised the issue, but then I also allowed for “some wiggle room” in the statute where it would permit someone to campaign for himself, just not for others. Gov. Hutchinson said you could read the statute that way, but “you could interpret it the other way.”
  • He pointed out that “you had Governor Beebe campaigning for other candidates…just historically, you’ve always done that.” I mentioned, again, that no one had made it an issue before. Also, again, I suggested the people gave some deference to governors in that role because of the importance of the position (unlike, say, State Treasurer). Gov. Hutchinson responded, “yeah, but you’ve raised substantive law issues that makes anyone nervous[.]”
  • “We might need to amend this law. A lot depends on what the Ethics Commission says, but it might need to be clarified.”
  • I pointed out that the unchanged nature of the law since 1915 suggested that, at least in the abstract, everyone seemed to agree that the law was a good idea. Gov. Hutchinson replied, laughing, “shucks, I wouldn’t run for Governor if I thought I was gonna have to keep hours!”
  • Finally, Gov. Hutchinson said they would “follow [the ethics outcome] with interest and try to balance it in the meantime.”

Apparently, by “balance it in the meantime,” he meant “just ignore it entirely.” Two weeks later, on February 29, Gov. Hutchinson went to two campaign events for Sen. Eddie Joe Williams during office hours.

Subsequently, the Ethics Commission dismissed the complaints against Rutledge and Milligan without a hearing, holding that federal candidates were not “candidates” within the meaning of the statute. By extension, then, both myself and our former Attorney General read that to mean that state-level candidates were “candidates.” So, armed with that knowledge, Gov. Hutchinson’s campaign events for Sen. Williams formed the basis of an ethics complaint against the governor, which I filed on March 31.

[gview file=”http://www.bluehogreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2016-03-31-Hutchinson-Ethics-Complaint-Unsigned.pdf”]

In response, Gov. Hutchinson’s spokesman, J.R. Davis, rambled about how “it is the Governor’s expectation that the Ethics Commission not only handle this issue fairly but that it also starts coming down on those who file frivolous complaints in the future.”2

Frivolous. [friv-uh-lus] adj. of little or no weight, worth, or importance; not worthy of serious notice.”

It appears that the Ethics Commission does not share Mr. Davis’s opinion about what is and is not frivolous.

[gview file=”http://www.bluehogreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2016-07-12-Hutchinson-Ethics-PC-Hearing-Letter.pdf”]

Ultimately, what you have here–which I hope the Ethics Commission will recognize–is an elected official, learned in the law, who specifically noted that the statute at issue could be a problem for him if he were to campaign for other candidates, who then went out and did exactly that two weeks after the telephone discussion that he and I had on the issue.

They say that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and that’s often true, but at least it is reasonably easy to forgive someone who breaks a law they didn’t know they were breaking. It is much harder to excuse someone’s flouting of a law with full knowledge that he was doing so.

Gov. Hutchinson can point all day long to the actions of past governors, but that is no more a defense than claiming “other people have done it before!” is a defense to driving 60 through Damascus, AR. Or, as the late Chief Justice Jim Hannah once wrote: “Rules are rules for a reason, and they have a purpose.”

 


  1. It makes even less sense in print, honestly.

  2. He also made the weird statement that “it is a shame that an important body such as the Ethics Commission is being used for political purposes,” as if every aspect of the Commission was not political from the outset. So maybe logic isn’t Mr. Davis’s strong suit.

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88 COMMENTS

  1. I’m more interested in the politicians (including the Gov) and the businessmen (including the Democrat-Gazette owner) who are all in bed with the Waltons working to destroy the Little Rock School District.

  2. lol. Who, in his office, decided it would be a good idea for him to speak to you personally? Did he honestly think he could just smooth it over?

  3. Maybe that is why the reporters at the Arkansas demgaz say they cannot report on the majority of the state’s school districts not following the dyslexia law.

  4. I think this action only helps us in the fight against his unethical treatment of everyone in education in Arkansas. So many people without kids or with kids in rural districts (the majority of our state) just don’t see what the big deal is about what he’s done to LRSD. He deserves scrutiny under a microscope

  5. He gotcha, Matt. He doesn’t have usual hours because he doesn’t work. He didn’t become Governor to work 10-2 or whatever it is you common people do. Ergo, no violation. Crafty devil, that one.

  6. Oh the Ethics Commission will just slap his little hand and tell him to be a good boy and follow the rules in the future. But I thank you, Matt, for keeping them on their toes. Goodness knows nobody else can 🙂

  7. I don’t know how this site appeared in my newsfeed but these comments crack me up. Until 2012 Dems controlled of this state and what did it gets us. Poor education, low wages, high taxes etc

  8. Dem controlled state legislator till 2012, dem governors with the exception of White, Huck and Asa, Bumbers and Pryor as senators forever, mostly dem reps til recently. Where am I wrong? But I digress so I’ll go away now

  9. Gov Hutchinson raises Arkansas’ profile nationally being there. Steve Inskeep has interviewed him periodically throughout the campaign and his multiple endorsements. As a former congressman and cabinet level fed, he’s a national figure as much as he’s a state one. I hope your intent is altruistic for the good of the Arkansas taxpayer.

  10. Capitalism, something I’m sure you claim to love, is why this popped up in your feed and here you are complaining. Socialism, something I bet you claim to dislike (perhaps vehemently), is where your state park paycheck comes from. Cognitive dissonance comes to mind.

  11. Joshua Wray.
    Arkansas has been a red state for quite some time.
    But I digress, maybe you should go away.

  12. Your worried about a politician campaigning!!!! Why don’t you do something useful and talk about what a corrupt b—h hillary Clinton is???

  13. Christina Wang I wasn’t referring to presidential elections. I’m refering to state elected officials. Do some research or just pay attention to our state. Arkansas has never been a red state in it’s legislator til 2012. Look it up along with the other postions I listed earlier. Ron Farrell, I don’t care about anyone’s race. I judge a person by their actions and how they treat me. I’m done.

  14. How about reporting on the criminal you are supporting for President. She has broken every rule and law possible.

  15. EVERY rule and law?! Wow. That’s impressive.
    You strike me as the type of person who would turn on the TV and then complain that the show you were watching wasn’t a completely different show, rather than just changing channels. No one is forcing you to read anything I write, you know.

  16. Well it popped up on my news feed. I will fix it. Don’t need to listen to anymore liberal ignorance.

  17. You forgot balanced budget and one of the lowest unemployment states in the Nation. Hell even the Repulicans loved Governer Beebe, because he wasn’t a divisive ass like they encounter in their own party.

  18. You can tell because she didn’t sound like a moron. You should try harder. Or you could go away. Either option is fine with me.

  19. You’ve attracted conservative trolls.
    This means you’re doing something good.
    Stay on them, Blue Hog Report!

  20. You do know that there is a way to hide things in your newsfeed, right?
    Learn to use Facebook.

  21. Okay, Joshua. Perhaps you had problems comprehending.
    Let me start from the beginning.
    “I don’t know how this site appeared in my newsfeed….”
    There’s a few possibilities that led to this problem. You obviously don’t know how Facebook works.
    a) It’s probably showing up in your newsfeed because you are a conservative troll.
    b) You have liberal friends that liked a post and it showed up on your newsfeed. Or you have Facebook friends that also like to troll.
    c) Facebook ads for Facebook pages appear to people that click on pages similar to this one.
    By a quick glance at your Facebook profile, it could be any of these possibilities.
    Now that we have that out of the way, one should address your other comments.
    “Until 2012, Dems controlled this state and what did it get us….”
    Arkansas has been a red state since 2000.
    Arkansas gained republican trifecta in November 2014.
    I think the question you should be asking is “What did voting for republican get us?”
    The answer would probably be poor education, low wages, high taxes.
    Oh and unconstitutional laws that have to be fought by tax payer money.
    Either you only use the Internet to troll or you haven’t paid much attention to Arkansas politics.
    That’s probably why you’re deflecting from what the article says.

  22. “I’m going to bitch about the democrats on an article about a republican. That’ll show them liberals.”

  23. Christina Wang, unlike most ppl from either side, I believe that if someone breaks the law that should be punished. If our govenour broke the law he should be punished. I couldn’t care less if he’s a republican, democrat or independent. One of the biggest problems in our country today is that if a politician is accused of something, everyone runs to their side of the political isle and points fingers at the other side. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it…now as for the republicans bring poor education and high taxes, that’s been apart of this states culture for decades. Oh, I never troll liberal sites. The only reason I clicked on this one is because it had the word hog in it. And just to clear the air, I’m not a republican. I don’t associate with either party. Both are to full of greed, corruption and deceit for me.

  24. This is going no where. Blue hogs are pitiful excuses for Arkansans. Go bark up another tree!

  25. *facepalm* he attracted truth tellers to focus him back on the real stuff, like Hillary not being indicted for a crime you or I would never see the light of day for.

  26. Yeah. Daniel is totally here to post facts about Hillary instead of trolling.
    He’s totally not some misogynistic tool that follows Rush Limbaugh and posts anti-Hillary memes.

  27. How about y’all go some place else? Your idea of “actual corruption” isn’t true and people need to conserve their usage of aluminum foil.
    Conspiracy theorists don’t own the entire internet.
    Here. I’ll make a deal. Everyone bitching about Blue Hog Report can easily get the information they are looking for from Alex Jones or Breibart. Or some other site that doesn’t focus on facts.
    Stop trying to corrupt the Blue Hog Report by begging him to post false stories.

  28. Oh. Is that why you clicked on an article about our governor’s corruption and started posting bullshit about Dems? Yeah. Seems legit.

  29. “I clicked on it because it had the word ‘hog’ in it. I had no idea that ‘blue’ meant democrat. I don’t ever troll liberal Facebook pages. Which is exactly why I’m trolling one right now.”
    That’s what you actually meant. You can’t backpedal now.

Comments are closed.