As promised, the Arkansas Republican Party has filed its lawsuit over free cars provided various state officials. The argument is that the cars, to the extent they are used for personal purposes, amount to income in excess of constitutional and statutory limits on pay.
It’s clearly an arguable point and has been for decades, but the party saw opportunity this year with the huge amount of reporting the Democrat-Gazette has brought to the issue. Mike Huckabee, a Republican governor, enjoyed a similar income enhancement, for example, before his State Police Director Tom Mars dreamed up statutory cover by making it the lawful duty of State Police to provide security for the governor and thus be the chauffeur of the first family’s vehicles.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel correctly declined to issue an opinion on the practice, expecting the legal action. He has himself given up the state vehicle once provided the attorney general. Ordinarily, he’d defend this suit, but he’s been named as a defendant
plaintiff, though he no longer has a state car.
While we’re getting all ethical, I’d urge the Republican Party to consider a searching look at whether inflated, unsupported expense claims by legislators might amount to unconstitutional income enhancements. Republican Mark Martin is by no means the only legislator whose practices could stand a closer look. It would be bipartisan sport.
The Democratic Party says the suit is baseless and hypocritical given Jim Keet’s tax problems and Party Chair Doyle Webb’s ethical failings as a lawyer. (See jump.)