I think he’s buried the lede, as we say in the newspaper trade. My summary:
It appears from available records that Mark Darr charged both his campaign and taxpayers for the same auto travels in 2011. He also for a time in 2011 charged gas to his state credit card on trips on which he also claimed state travel reimbursement based on mileage, without deducting the credit card charge from the mileage reimbursement.
If he has an alibi for these practices, he’s long had my phone number. I’d like to hear them. His campaign consultants’ have already said publicly they abandoned his congressional campaign shortly before Darr did on account of his explanations on financial questions. So I’m not expecting the phone to ring.
The records show that Darr charged taxpayers 42 cents a mile for in-state travel, often commuting to his home in Springdale. Such personal travel isn’t reimbursable under the law by either campaign or public accounts.
Double-dipping on reimbursements is a good way to raise extra cash. Darr had reason for need of money. His pizza business went south and was sold; his house wound up in foreclosure; he told me he had to give up a Little Rock apartment because he could not longer afford it. Even a gas-hog pickup such as Darr once drove can be operated for well under 42 cents a mile out of pocket, particularly when you can claim both the gas purchase and 42 cents a mile. The circumstantial evidence is strong that Darr did this.
Now, can we get Legislative Audit to take a look? Rep. Hammer? Sen. King? The Ethics Commission is not the place for review of double-dipping through public expense accounts. A thorough audit and/or a prosecutor’s office is.
I’ve asked Darr’s office for comment. He’s been mute to date. You might remember he took office on a promise to run the state like a business, with a transparent “state checkbook” and all the rest. He grows increasingly opaque. He’s scurrying to “correct” his record, both in office and in the campaign. That’s a clock that can’t be rewound. If you rob a bank, returning the money doesn’t forgive the crime.
Some examples (and these are just a select few):
DOUBLE-CHARGING THE STATE
+ Feb. 14, 2011: Darr drove from Little Rock to Van Buren and back and was reimbursed for the 305.54 miles in that trip, about $128 at 42 cents a mile. En route back from Van Buren, at 7:41pm, Darr purchased gas on the state Exxon Mobil card for $94.78 in Russellville.
* Feb. 18, 2011:Darr drove from Little Rock to Texarkana and back for a mileage reimbursement of 296.63 miles, or about $124.. However, on the way to Texarkana, at 8:21am on Feb. 18, he purchased gas on the state credit card for $58.22 in Arkadelphia.
Blue Hog notes that, coincidentally, after he began inquiring about Secretary of State Mark Martin’s state mileage charges in 2011, Darr’s charges to his state credit card ended and Darr reimbursed some earlier charges on the cards.
CHARGING HIS CAMPAIGN AND THE STATE
* May 16-17, 2011. Darr traveled from Little Rock to Fort Smith and back and was reimbursed by the state for 320 miles, or about $134. His campaign shows he charged his campaign for $132.12 on that trip for a “fundraiser” at the 7-Up Kwik Stop in Ola.
* June 7, 2011, Darr claimed 426 miles from the state, or about $179, for a trip to Rogers and back. On June 7, he charged his campaign $120.06 for a “fundraiser” at Love’s Country Store in Ozark.
* June 17, 2011: Darr claimed 219 miles of reimbursement from the state, plus 8 more miles to Springdale, for $42 in taxpayer reimbursement. On that same day, he charged his campaign $109.21 for a “fundraiser” at the Pilot in Russellville.
GONE TO TEXAS
Darr charged taxpayers more than $420 to drive to Austin, Texas and back July 24-26, 2011 to meet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He also charged taxpayers for his hotel. He charged his campaign for $155.31 in food at Vince Young’s Steakhouse and $100.98 at the Prime Mart, another fuel stop, in Austin. Was it a campaign trip? If so, why did taxpayers pay for the gas? Was it an official trip? Why did he charge the campaign for meals and fuel?
I think Darr is in deep doo.
Arkansas Republican Chairman Doyle Webb once got huge headlines for suing Democratic officials who used state cars for personal travel to and from home. Comments, Mr. Webb?
UPDATE: Blue Hog unearths evidence that Darr charged taxpayers for a father-son trout fishing trip.
BTW: We give a hat tip to Matt Campbell, Blue Hog’s operator, in this week’s Times.