Over the past ten days, we have run five separate stories about Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray. The first one touched on Gray’s embarrassing public actions, problems with DPA financial reporting, and Karyn Bradford-Coleman’s unapproved salary raises and improper use of a stamp of Gray’s signature on campaign-finance filings. The second one took issue with Gray’s emailed response to the first post and pointed out incorrect aspects to what he was saying as well as problems in his own campaign-finance reports.
Our third post noted that Gray’s misleading and inaccurate statements had gone beyond emails and were now being repeated to the press. And the fourth post, published just a few days ago, dove deeper into the DPA’s campaign-finance filings, noting several problems with compliance and how much fixing those problems was costing the DPA.
The common thread running through all of these posts has been Michael John Gray’s apparent inability to provide the DPA with competent leadership, oversight, and decision making. Looking deeper, however, we’ve found that this lack of oversight and poor decision making extends beyond just his role as chairman; for instance, a lack of following the law regarding campaign-finance reports is what ultimately led to an ethics complaint and an investigation by the Ethics Commission.
Unfortunately, what we have presented so far does not represent the totality of Gray’s failures to actually be an accountable leader, either within or outside his role in the DPA. Just since the first post was published on August 6, we have seen DPA employees (under Gray’s direction) fail to follow party rules even when addressing earlier failures to follow party rules. We have also found evidence of Gray’s failing to provide proper reporting for multiple PACs that he is or was involved with.
So, to round out our two-ish weeks of coverage on this, let’s look at each of these additional categories and see what we can find out.
Rules? What Rules?
Following the first post, Gray sent out an email on August 8 with an attachment that served as the official notice of a special state committee meeting on August 17.
That notice even cited the party rule applicable here, Section 4.05. If we look at Section 4.05(d), however, immediately below the provision cited in the DPA notice above, we see this:
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the party sent out notice of this meeting at 10:41am on August 8, for a meeting at 9:30am on August 17, which is fewer than ten full days before the meeting. Instead, let’s look at the last sentence of that subsection: The news media shall be informed thereof at the time of the calling of each meeting.
From what I’ve seen, the news media was not informed of the August 17 meeting until this email on August 15:
So…you’re going to have a meeting about accusations that include a failure by Gray and DPA staff to follow DPA rules…and you fail to even follow DPA rules when announcing that meeting?
Similarly, on August 14, Gray sent an email to the DPA Executive Committee, telling them that there would be a meeting of that committee on August 17 as well, an hour before the State Committee meeting:
Notice that the email he sent out does not refer to the Executive Committee meeting as an “emergency meeting.” He simply says that it is a Special Executive Committee Meeting right there in the subject line of the email. Let’s look at Section 5.06 of the DPA rules to see what it says about meetings of the Executive Committee:
Ignoring the apparent typo in that rule where it says “State Committee” instead of “Executive Committee” in the second line, we see that special meetings of the Executive Committee also require ten days’ notice. Yet, Gray sent this notice on August 14 at 11:37am, less than three full days prior to the meeting he was attempting to call.
Did he send media notice of this meeting at the same time as he sent the notice? If he did, no one I have talked to has seen it. Meaning, in two notices to DPA committee members about special meetings that will discuss, in part, allegations of party-rule violations, Gray and his staff managed to violate party rules at least three times–once by failing to send media notice of the State Committee meeting until August 15 when the meeting had been called on August 9, once by calling a special meeting of the Executive Committee less than ten days prior to the meeting that was being called, and once by failing to send media notice of the special Executive Committee meeting.
I don’t know what that is, but it ain’t good oversight or adherence to the rules. Indeed…it almost appears as if Gray thinks rules don’t apply to him. Which is my way of segueing into a look at Gray’s PAC filings.
PAC it up, PAC it in…
In 2015, Michael John Gray, along with Mariah Hatta, created the Arkansas Growth, Responsibility, and Infrastructure PAC.
That PAC chugged along with small contributions and expenditures and, by the October 2017 report, it showed a balance of $8,575 in its coffers. It showed that same balance in the fourth-quarter 2017 report, as well as the first three quarterly reports filed in 2018.
The fourth-quarter 2018 report was due to be filed by January 15, 2019. It was not. On August 6, 2019, we published our first post about Michael John Gray. On August 7, 9, and 12, we published three more posts about him. The one on the 7th, in particular, demonstrated that we were looking into Gray’s own campaign-finance reporting, not just the party filings.
On August 13, 2019, at 11:34 in the morning, nearly eight full months after it was due, Gray filed the fourth-quarter 2018 report for his PAC.
Curiously, however, despite the fact that a first-quarter and second-quarter report for 2019 were due from the PAC on March 15 and June 15, respectively, Gray has still not filed those reports, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Close. So close. Yet…not.
Looking deeper into this PAC, beyond just the missing reports, something else pops up as well. The PAC showed this contribution on November 1, 2016:
AHDC Leadership PAC is the Arkansas House Democratic Caucus Leadership PAC, and, if you are paying attention, you might notice that the address listed for that PAC in 2016 was Augusta, AR.
That’s right. Michael John Gray was also an officer of that PAC at the time. Yet, if we look at the ADHC PAC report that covers the same November 1, 2016 time period, there is no entry for $5,000 to Gray’s other PAC:
Weirder still, you see that 11/17/2016 donation of $15,000 to the DPA from the ADHC PAC? Well, if we look at the DPA’s quarterly reports that cover that period, we see only two entries, of $5,000 each, from that PAC:
In sum, we have Gray running two PACs in November of 2016. (He was not chair of the DPA at that point, so the DPA report was not his to fill out.) In one PAC’s filing, he says his other PAC gave $5,000. However, the second PAC shows no record of that contribution, saying only that it gave $15,000 to the DPA. But the DPA report shows only $10,000 from Gray’s second PAC to the DPA at that time.
Meaning, it certainly appears like Gray sent $5,000 from the Arkansas Democratic House Leadership Caucus PAC to his own Arkansas Growth, Responsibility, and Infrastructure PAC and $10,000 to the DPA, then lied and said he had sent $15,000 to the DPA and omitted any mention of a contribution to his other PAC.
Taken as a whole, this post is just part of a bigger picture, and it isn’t a pretty one. Whether it is his own campaign, PACs he is responsible for, or the DPA’s quarterly reports, Gray has demonstrated at every turn a track record of sloppy, incorrect, or outright false reporting of where money is coming from and going to. That’s why, for example, when you see a sudden spike in the first-quarter 2019 DPA report that shows that the party somehow managed $13,264 in unitemized expenditures in that quarter, you would be forgiven if you are suspect about what’s going on.1
The history just isn’t there for Gray to receive the benefit of the doubt about such things anymore.
After all, every expenditure over $100 has to be itemized in those reports, so the DPA report is implying that there were at least 133 expenditures of $100 or less in that quarter alone, when no other quarter has had a total even close to that. And that’s if every one of the unitemized expenditures was for $100. If they were less, the number of implied expenditures covered in that total goes up.↩