Full disclosure: I am going to ask you for a fundraising donation at the end of this post. I just wanted to be up front about that. Even if you don’t have any plans on signing up for our Patreon, however, hopefully you’ll read this post and find some story that you missed the first time around.
When I first started Blue Hog Report back in April 2010, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going to go with it. Initially, it served as a standard blog, with short commentaries on various news items of the day. This was in the midst of the 2010 campaign season, and there was plenty of news to talk about, all the way up through the terrible election results that November.
After the first of the year in 2011, however, I had to figure out a new approach for the blog when there wasn’t going to be political news every day. We’d had some good traffic with some FOIA-fueled dives we’d done into then-Republican candidate for Sec. of State Mark Martin during the campaign, so I figured we might be able to use the FOIA to research other issues and write about whatever we found.
Then came the legislative-reimbursement scandal, followed shortly by the Arkansas Republican Party trying to get me and Jeff fired from our state jobs in early June 2011, and the blog went dark from June 2011 to May 1, 2013.
In the lost times, I would occasionally think about whether and how I would bring Blue Hog Report back from the beyond. When I finally left the Arkansas Supreme Court to go into private practice in 2013, I already knew that I was going to focus on research and long-form reporting, rather than trying to have something every day. After all, that kind of research had clearly struck a nerve with some folks in the past; I wanted to see if I could get that reaction again.
Since then, while the number of posts has waxed and waned considerably, I’d like to think that we’ve broken some pretty important stories over the years. In roughly chronological order:
- The whole Mark Darr campaign-finance thing that caused him to drop out of a congressional race and ultimately to resign as Lt. Governor.
- Mike Maggio’s revelation of Charlize Theron’s adoption on an LSU message board (along with a ton of other terrible comments), his dropping out of the Court of Appeals race, his prior acceptance of a campaign-contribution bribe to reduce the verdict in a nursing home case, and his removal from the bench and criminal conviction.
- The prevention of Alex Reed, a staffer for then-AR02 GOP candidate Ann Clemmer, from illegally remaining on the Pulaski County Election Commission.
- Reporting on how the Fort Smith Police Department was allowing officers to get naked and fool around with prostitutes before effectuating an arrest, with an audio recording and transcript of one of those arrests, which the FSPD spokesperson at the time thought made them look good for some reason.
- The story of Stacy Hurst and some of her friends with leverage in the LRSD directly interfering with Clarke Tucker’s son’s pre-K placement in an effort to create a scandal for Tucker that Hurst could have exploited, which was a story that kept getting worse for Hurst and the LRSD the more they lied to try to cover it up.
- We had Leslie Rutledge’s racist emails from her time at DHS and an examination of the lies and shadiness surrounding her voter registration prior to the 2014 election.
- A history lesson about how one Arkansas member of the US House of Representatives championed public health care reform, then ended any chance of its passage when he was caught with a showgirl in 1974.
- A deep look, based on his own social-media postings, into how then-Sec. of State Mark Martin spent the majority of the summer of 2014 in Prairie Grove, despite state law requiring that the Secretary of State make his residence in Little Rock (and despite, you know, actually having a job to do).
- The revelation that then-LRSD Superintendent Dexter Suggs plagiarized large chunks of his doctoral dissertation to a pretty alarming degree, which led to his “resignation” and then to the cessation of any severance pay to him when Indiana Wesleyan stripped him of his doctorate.
- Gov. Asa Hutchinson admitting on a phone call (which you can hear in the post) that the law was clear that he could not campaign for other people during business hours, then doing it anyway, which wound up not being a big deal because the Arkansas Ethics Commission hasn’t been willing to hold someone above the county level accountable for anything in a long time.
- A somewhat math-heavy post about how nursing home owner Michael Morton was continuing to try to use his money to rig the Arkansas political system in his favor, even after the Michael Maggio stuff.
- How former Rep. Micah Neal lied in his campaign withdrawal so that the GOP would have a candidate for Washington County Judge when they definitely should not have had one.
- Just an absolute ton of stuff about (almost former) Senator Jason Rapert, including a fun post where he tried to doxx someone (because he’s a bully), so we posted all of his publicly available information in a single post (because we hate bullies). He did not enjoy this.
- Proof of then-Rep. Laurie Rushing and then-Rep. Ken Henderson’s playing at rantum-scrantum, which was particularly awful for Henderson to do, given the context.
- A deep look at the past and future of legal gambling in Arkansas, which was later used as an entry at Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
- Detailing allegations of domestic abuse by Rep. Jack Ladyman, who voted against domestic-abuse protections.
- Locating and breaking the story about Tom Cotton’s alleged Little Rock residence and how weird the circumstances surrounding it were.
- Showing how a local gun store was apparently working with Arkansas State Police to “report” suspicious (read: black) gun purchasers in the summer of 2020 and how the ASP were treating protestors as the enemy and defending racist, anti-police counter-demonstrators and were ignoring their own protocols to attack protestors.
- A long-term, wide-ranging series of posts about how poorly the Arkansas Democratic Party was being run by former chair Michael John Gray and how new leadership was needed.
- Details on how Sen. Trent Garner’s story about being mugged while in the military was a total lie and a follow-up a look at how his description of what happened makes no logical sense.
- Bob Ballinger’s clear ties to attempts to rig the medical-marijuana process and role as water-carrier for Ecclesia College.
- John Thurston and that ridiculous boat that his office bought while he was Land Commissioner.
- A woman in Cross County who made news when she held high school kids at gunpoint for being black had a husband who worked at the sheriff’s office and lived in a rental home owned by the sheriff, but that sheriff had no use for laws anyway.
- Multiple stories about people who were running for office and were ineligible, had some big questions about their candidacy, or were getting stopped while hammer drunk and peeing on themselves.
- How the Benton County Sheriff used BCSO funds, guns, personnel, and ammunition to be part of a private shooting event with Ted Nugent.
- A massive dive into Sen. Bob Ballinger’s campaign-finance reports, social-media posts, and other public records that demonstrated a consistent pattern of misuse and abuse of those campaign funds for private purposes.
- Details on Justice Barbara Webb’s law clerk doing political advocacy on court time.
- The recent posts–with more still to come–detailing Trent Garner’s illegal acceptance of a public-defender job, the incompetence at the Public Defender Commission that facilitated both his hiring and his resignation, and the ongoing fall-out for Garner.
While BHR is never going to make anyone forget about Woodward and Bernstein, I think it’s fair to say that this blog has had an impact on Arkansas over the years. When I look back at the posts listed above, however, I am struck by how much more time I had to research and write when I first started the blog and when I first brought it back. Until 2017–and even picking back up again in 2018–this blog frequently had five or six or ten posts in a given month.
Unfortunately, as these things tend to do, real life got in the way and ate into the time available to do the leg work needed for the more in-depth posts. And some of them take a tremendous amount of time: the post about legislative reimbursements back in 2011 had roughly a dozen hours of combing through records and making it all make sense big picture; the first post about Mike Maggio and the LSU message-board postings took nearly 20 hours over the course of a weekend, just tracking down posts, screen-shotting, and organizing them; the Darr and Ballinger posts about misuse of campaign funds each required well over 10 hours; the Garner stuff over the past few weeks has been well over 15 hours; etc.
Now, as I’ve said many times, I do this blogging stuff because it interests me and people seem to enjoy it. I am not saying–or even suggesting–that I need to be paid an hourly rate to do this, because I will (obviously) do as much as I can for free, just like I have for roughly a decade. That said, I have realized over the past month how much stuff comes across my desk that I just don’t have the bandwidth for, even when it’s potentially a good story. But I could…
Remember when I said at the start that I was going to ask for money at the end? Well, as much as it makes me feel like an NPR pledge drive, here comes that ask: if you have enjoyed Blue Hog Report, either as someone who has been reading for years or someone who just found the blog recently, and you find value in this kind of reporting, please consider subscribing to our Patreon account.
By subscribing, you will be helping out in multiple ways. First, as I alluded to above, the money will allow me to justify spending more time on the blogging and the background work necessary to do the blogging well. It will also defray some of the costs associated with the blog, such as yearly hosting fees and the like. But, perhaps most excitingly, your contributions will allow us to hire specialized nerds from time to time to help finish some much larger projects we’ve been tinkering with for years but lack the deep-data-science knowledge to efficiently reach conclusions.
In the event you are still reading and considering subscribing, let me give you a broad overview of what that subscription gets you. There are four tiers for subscriptions–originally, there were three, but a few people asked about a $5 tier, so I added that after the fact–at $5, $10, $20, and $50/month. All tiers will receive my undying gratitude, an email containing a photo of one of my two basset hounds, and the ability to comment on posts both on Patreon and here1
At the $10/month level and up, you will also receive the ability to see posts on Patreon roughly 12-24 hours prior to when they go public on Blue Hog Report. Signing up at $20 tier or above adds an entry in the monthly drawing for a BHR t-shirt. And signing up for $50 per month gets you an additional entry in the t-shirt drawing, a second basset hound photo, VIP/free access to any future BHR-related events that we might do, and an email address to have your own specific AFOIA-related questions answered, on or off the record.
Point being, there are plenty of options to fit what just about anyone might wish to do.
Regardless of whether you subscribe, I hope you at least found this post to be a useful refresher for long-time readers or a way for new readers to get up to speed about BHR, depending on which scenario applies to you. There were even a couple stories that I had forgotten about, and I wrote 95% of what’s here, so I have to assume pretty much anyone who scrolled through that list of highlights found something they missed the first time. As always, thank you for reading BHR.
Thank you for reading.
Once we get the commenting set back up here, which is a whole thing at the moment, because limiting comments to only paid users is harder than I expected.↩