It’s a significant development when widely watched KATV picks up a news story. Politicians watch TV, even if they don’t always read the newspaper or liberal blogs.
So it’s worth noting that KATV last night reported on the bundle of questions raised by Blue Hog Report work (also extensively reported here) about both ethical and official spending questions raised by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr’s campaign reports and office expense account.
The KATV report headlined possible ethics violations. Strike “possible.” Darr has already admitted his campaign finance reports were badly flawed and is trying to “correct” them. The only question is how heavily the Ethics Commission will hammer Darr for improper spending identical in nature if not amount — food, clothes, personal travel — to that of Paul Bookout, who resigned from the state Senate after his campaign abuses were substantiated.
It will also be interesting to see if a special prosecutor takes up the issue after the ethics report is filed, as happened with Bookout. It should happen, but not just for the ethics violations. As KATV noted in passing:
A look at Darr’s expense report filings with the state shows he expensed multiple trips from his home in Springdale to distant places such as Hot Springs and his offices in Little Rock.
“By looking at his reports, it looks like Arkansas is paying for him to commute,” [Talk Business’ Michael] Cook said.
Another area of concern shows that sometimes Darr would expense gas or mileage with the state and then expense the same trip with his campaign, leaving a blurry picture of whether or not the trip was for campaign or state purposes, essentially “double dipping.”
“Concern”? Yes. Charging taxpayers for expenses reimbursed by another party or charging the state twice for the same expenses, as Blue Hog reporting indicates Darr might have done, would be a crime.
KATV said neither Darr nor Arkansas Republican officials would comment. No wonder.
Blue Hog’s Matt Campbell is upset at the relatively puny credit KATV gave him last night for pointing its reporters to this story. Been there and I feel his pain. But KATV did mention Blue Hog (and he’s up near the top of the text version on-line now), which is far better than sometimes happens. Media are always reluctant to credit other media (the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is particularly reluctant) and many will not do so at all when they independently dig up the same information, even if they wouldn’t have known where to look but for the original reporting. That’s chickenbleep. But it’s alway fair to toot your own horn if no one else will, as Blue Hog has been doing. That’s the way it goes.
Blue Hog can get the satisfaction, as the Arkansas Times often does, of knowing that his work inspired others. You know what they say about imitation. And it really is about the story itself, not the medium. Here, particularly. Blue Hog has single-handedly put in play a major scandal involving the state’s second-highest ranking public official. Blue Hog has already driven Darr out of a race for Congress. Absent excuses that have not yet surfaced, the Darr Debacle should end the same way Paul Bookout’s did.