Thursday, October 6, 2022

I Got Five On It: Asa’s Anti-Weed Tweet Brought to You by Other People’s Money

This whole thing is funnier if you picture Asa as Stacy Keach's character from "Nice Dreams."

Earlier today, Governor Asa Hutchinson tweeted the following:

There is, of course, a lot to break down in that tweet, from Hutchinson’s ridiculous “the science is clear” statement after he’s ignored science for his entire life, to the dog-whistle picture that accompanies the tweet in an effort to scare pearl-clutching white Arkansans into worrying that their daughters will smoke marijuana with black men. Toss in that Hutchinson also actively allowed Barry Seal to run tons of cocaine through Mena, AR, in the 1980s, and this tweet is truly a master class in political shitposting, for which Hutchinson is (rightfully) being hammered in the replies.

One thing that jumped out about the tweet and the link that Hutchinson shared, however, was the entity behind the linked website, Safe and Secure Communities (“SSC”). Specifically, who or what is behind it, and why does SSC seem so concerned about marijuana in Arkansas?

The answers were weirder than I expected. So lets jump into this rabbit hole together and see if we can make heads or tails of this.

SSC is a ballot question committee (“BQC”) that registered with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on July 13, 2022. According to their initial registration filing, the only officer or director of SSC is a guy named Michael McCauley of Downers Grove, IL.

Who is Michael McCauley? Well, if we search the listed address, 1901 Butterfield Rd., Suite 120, Downers Grove, IL, we get a variety of things. There’s Alexander Chemical. There’s American National Investment Advisors. There’s even a chance that the office is empty and currently available for rent. But there does not seem to be a Michael McCauley.

Hold on, though. That listed phone number is weird. The property management group that runs the building at 1901 Butterfield Rd. has a 630 area code, while McCauley listed a 385 phone number, which would be a Salt Lake City number. So what if we search the phone number instead of the address?

Bingo. That is the phone number for McCauley & Associates in Salt Lake City, UT, which is a company that “is a certified public accounting firm that provides full caging, accounting, treasury and reporting services for a large variety of political reporting entities, including Congressional and Senate campaigns, PACS, State and Local parties or candidate committees as well as other political entities including 527 and 501 (c)(4) organizations.”

As for Mike McCauley himself, well, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect:

Why is a Utah Republican with (apparently) a national profile among Republican campaigns and candidates using a random Illinois business park as an address for an Arkansas ballot question committee? (That’s not rhetorical, by the way. I’m genuinely curious, because I cannot make heads or tails of that so far.)

But it gets weirder.

On July 21, 2022–just eight days after registering as a BQC–Safe and Secure Communities received a $250,000 contribution from Ronald M. Cameron, as shown on their August financial report:1

Ron Cameron, of course, is the owner and chairman of Mountaire Farms, the fourth-largest chicken producer in the world. Cameron is a huge donor to Republican candidates, PACs, local and regional parties and committees, and assorted causes, giving tons of money to the likes of Tom Cotton, JD Vance, Sarah Palin, Herschel Walker, Devin Nunes, Lauren Boebert, and others. Perhaps more tellingly, Mountaire Farms was the fourth-largest donor to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. The New Yorker even did a fantastic deep dive into Cameron and Mountaire a couple years ago, detailing how Cameron sent hundreds of millions to his own foundation (The Jesus Fund) while profiting through the pandemic and stiffing workers left and right.

That Cameron would give a large chunk of cash to something like Safe and Secure Communities is hardly noteworthy on its own. I mean, the man gave $100,000 to Fair Courts America, a Super PAC that gets involved in state and federal judicial and prosecutor races and that sent some pretty gross mailers in the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s race this year. He is involved in pushing Republican agendas at pretty much every level.

What makes the SSC contribution noteworthy, however, is that Cameron is the only person who has donated to that particular ballot question committee. Literally, the only one. Which means, essentially, that you have the Governor of Arkansas tweeting a link to a poorly researched study on a website that is published by a ballot question committee based in Illinois, managed by a guy in Utah, and funded by a single uber-wealthy Arkansan. Or, more directly, you have the Governor of Arkansas pushing a message funded by one very, very rich Arkansan and pretending like it is a scientific study rather than poorly repackaged Reefer Madness.

When you look at it through that lens, Hutchinson’s statement that “the science is clear” becomes even more ridiculous. The website that he linked in the tweet references a study whose own authors noted, “the lack of pre-commercialization data, decreasing social stigma, & challenges to law enforcement combine to make it difficult to translate these preliminary findings into definitive statements of outcomes.” So even the authors of actual study do not conclude that the science is “clear.” Not that Hutchinson has actually ever given a tinker’s damn about “science” as it relates to marijuana or COVID or anything else.

So what gives? Why is Hutchinson out here pushing SSC’s anti-marijuana message while saying nothing about how the dangers from marijuana compare with, say, the dangers of alcohol?

Oooooh. Yeah, that checks out. I had briefly forgotten that Hutchinson is and always has been little more than a mouthpiece for whatever money is backing him. My bad.

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  1. Which was faxed from a Utah phone number, just for the record.

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