More great reporting by the Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline this morning (pay wall) on Treasurer Martha Shoffner (still I sit by a silent phone awaiting her return calls). My calls were to ask some of the same questions Wickline answered:
* Yes, the $10,000 in campaign money she got from lawyers she helps hire as a member of the Teacher Retirement System board came in a single check she picked up on a state-financed trip to New York (extended by another night in a $500 hotel so she could grab the cash and see the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center). She’s repaid the money since it didn’t come in individual checks from the five donors represented.
* Yes, she says she used a van supposedly paid by a $900 monthly draw from campaign surplus for personal uses, so she’s going to pay that back, too. I’d still like to see the checks issued for that old Ford Aero van. I still say you could cruise in a BMW for that kind of dough.
There’s more. But the bottom line remains that the state treasurer kept sloppy — possibly dishonest — books of her campaign account and has tried to push responsibility off on aides. It is not a confidence builder in a Democratic official entrusted with billions in state money.
PS — I don’t think we should lightly overlook the fact that a bigshot law firm paid big bucks to represent a state agency wrote what appears to be an illegal campaign contribution check to a member of the board of the agency that hires them. Don’t care what the “intentions” were or how Shoffner eventually reported it — inaccurately — to comply with the law. A law firm can’t legally write a $10,000 check to an Arkansas political candidate’s campaign. Did it gather up the money from the individual lawyers Shoffner claimed to have been donors? If not, did it count that as taxable income to the lawyers? This is a messy thing and I hope the Ethics Commission fully investigates it, rather than accept Shoffner’s belated jury-rigged effort to make it right.