Hi, Cotton: Tracking Down Pulaski County’s Newest Resident U.S. Senator

It's like "Where's Waldo," if Waldo had used a trust to keep him out of the picture entirely.


Every now and then, I start digging into a story or a lead, find a bunch of information, and still can’t make heads or tails of exactly what is going on. Usually when that happens, the story gets shelved until something else pops up that makes the information make sense. This time around, however, the disjointed information itself seems interesting enough that it is worth putting out in a post, and maybe someone who reads this will have additional insight or be able to help us connect the dots.

Yesterday, the Arkansas Blog had a story about Tom Cotton and his wife buying a home in Little Rock. However, information about where this new abode was located was scarce. As Max wrote:

Caroline Tabler, communications director for Cotton, confirmed that Cotton has a residence in Little Rock. She declined to say where. […] Voter records indicate Cotton made the change to Little Rock in June 2019. The records don’t list an address, only a post office box. 

Chalk it up to whatever part of my personality likes such puzzles, but Cotton’s apparent reluctance to say where his new home was set me to digging. I knew that you could not register to vote with just a PO Box, so I sent a FOIA request to the Pulaski County Clerk’s office for Cotton and his wife’s actual voter registration forms. Those forms listed the couple’s new address as 724 North St., Apt. 71, Little Rock, AR 72201.

Mystery solved, right? Well…not really. Because here is where things got weird.

A search of the Pulaski County Assessor’s website turned up the owner of 724 North St., Apt. 71, as Pine & Birch Revocable Trust, not Tom and/or Anna Cotton.

Pulling the mortgage and deed from the Pulaski County Clerk’s website, we see that this apartment was purchased from former Arkansas State Representative Scott Baltz (D-Pocahontas). More interestingly, those records showed that the trustee of the Pine & Birch Revocable Trust, and the person who signed the mortgage, is Edward A. Dickey.

Additional poking around, turned up that Edward A. Dickey is also known as Ted Dickey, son of the late Congressman Jay Dickey and former Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court Betty Dickey. In addition to being trustee for a trust with apparent ties to Tom Cotton, Ted Dickey is a lawyer, real estate agent, advisor to Innovate Arkansas, and (as of February of this year) University of Arkansas Trustee. He has made some donations to Cotton’s various campaigns–along with donations to other Republicans running for federal office from Arkansas–but nothing notable enough to explain this trustee/house connection. Then I stumbled across this:

That article is dated July 10, 2019. Meaning, Dickey, through the Pine & Birch Revocable Trust, purchased the apartment that Cotton now calls his Arkansas home on April 29, 2019; Cotton and his wife changed their voter registration to the Little Rock address on June 20, 2019; and Dickey and other friends of Cotton set up a 501(c)(4) for Cotton less than three weeks after that. That’s…odd?

It gets stranger. While searching around for information on Dickey, I also noticed that he uses P.O. Box 17674 in Little Rock for work-related mail, both in his role as a lawyer and for other business stuff. If that P.O. Box looks familiar, it is probably because you saw it here:

Meaning, in that house-voter registration-501(c)(4) timeline above, Cotton used Dickey’s P.O. Box for his mailing address on his voter registration form 20 days before Dickey and other set up the (c)(4) organization for him.

Even ignoring the oddity of that overlap and timeline, this raises questions. Namely, why would Tom Cotton put someone else’s P.O. Box on his voter registration form as the place where he (and his wife) receive mail, rather than, say, P.O. Box 379 in Dardanelle, which he has consistently used as his mailing address for campaign-related stuff? If he no longer has that P.O. Box, then why not use his address in the D.C. area, his sister’s Little Rock address, his parents’ home address, or anything else that would make more sense than Ted Dickey’s mailbox?

All of this digging around into Tom Cotton’s housing in Little Rock made me curious about Cotton’s housing history in general. By which I mean, I started to wonder why this new apartment was purchased through a revocable trust and how that compared with other addresses he has used as his temporary or permanent home. A broad search turned up four potentially relevant addresses, with two houses in Dardanelle owned by Cotton’s father and two apartments in the Washington D.C. area. Meaning, it does not seem like Cotton has ever owned a house or apartment or condo in his own name, whether in Arkansas or elsewhere.

In the end, I suppose I’m left with at least six questions: (1) Why was this condo purchased through a revocable trust that looks as if Cotton was trying to keep his ownership secret? (2) Why is Ted Dickey the trustee, especially when Cotton’s sister is a lawyer whose firm bio says she “has practiced law for 20 years and is a part of the Trust and Estate Planning Practice Group with the firm” in the very first line? (3) Why did Cotton and his wife use Ted Dickey’s P.O. Box on their Pulaski County voter registrations as the address where they receive mail? (4) Why does Tom Cotton appear to not want to own any real estate in his own name, even in his home state? (5) Why would a married man with two young kids want a two-bedroom, 905-square-foot apartment in Little Rock if he actually planned on spending any time there? (6) The overarching question about Tom Cotton: why is he just so relentlessly, mind-blowingly weird about absolutely everything?