The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported today that Sen. Joyce Elliott apparently owes about $1,600 in back taxes, based on liens filed in that amount. It’s sloppy financial management, even if explanations might exist, and adds to recent negative publicity from the financial sleight-of-hand that was necessary to legally pay Elliott in a new job as director of a neighborhood education and improvement project sponsored by UALR and the city of Little Rock. I’d written earlier that those bookkeeping corrections don’t erase the ill appearance of government agencies finagling to keep a state legislator on the public’s payroll.
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This is one of the hottest and most interesting races for Senate, pitting Elliott, a committed liberal, against state Rep. Fred Allen, a reliable vote for corporate interests, in a race for a majority black district. Representatives of such districts tend to vote on the progressive end of the scale. Allen, a truly nice guy, signals his leanings by volunteering “tort reform” as one of the pressing issues facing his district. Not. The legal system already tilts heavily against plaintiffs and workers in court, but those two magic words help explain an outpouring of doctors’ contributions to Allen in the $75,000 he’s raised so far, along with an honor roll of most of the state’s corporate lobbyists. Even a tobacco company has sent Allen money, though he’s helped some non-smoking causes in the past.
Elliott, on the other hand, has raised about $70,000, with a substantial amount from non-corporate contributions from well-known liberals, heavily leaning toward women, who were the backbone of her unsuccessful race for Congress in 2010. Her state Senate district once covered a portion of Hillcrest, remember.
Look, too, for the imprint of the education debate in this race. Allen has received more than $12,000, about a sixth of his money, from Jackson T. Stephens Jr. and Jim Walton or related corporate and personal contributors. They support the “education reform” agenda. Elliott, a former teacher and former teacher union leader, has stood up to the corporate lobby that, among others, aims to break the Little Rock School District into a balkanized system of independent, non-union, non-publicly overseen but publicly financed agencies known as charter schools. I should add that D-G publisher Walter Hussman, whose editorial page thundered against Elliott today, shares that school outlook with Walton and Stephens.
No excuses offered here for Elliott’s failure to pay taxes or get paperwork filed on time. That puts her in the league of a number of others, among them Rep. Ed Garner, the serial tax scofflaw, and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, whose dilatory legal work has caused a default judgment in at least one lawsuit. You could look them up, too. The D-G just happened to focus its attention on Joyce Elliott. Doesn’t matter if it decided to undertake that review itself or with a push from opposition researchers. The facts speak for themselves. So does Fred Allen’s vigorous advocacy of some of the interests of the most advantaged people in Arkansas in a district that numbers few billionaire residents.