Lt. Gov. Mark Darr took his customary seat in the chair as the president of the Senate this morning during its speedy consideration of special session legislation. But if he gave any press interviews, I missed them.
The Darr record contains some hard-to-explain gaps.
For example: Remember when he told the Ethics Commission that it appeared he’d made some mistakes in past campaign finance filings and would be filing a corrected support soon? As yet, no corrected report appears to be on file at the secretary of state’s office.
Also, the deadline for a third quarter report paassed this week with no new filing from Mark Darr. At last report, his carryover campaign account still had outstanding balances. You’d think he should have filed something.
The state Ethics Commission earlier informed Little Rock lawyer Matt Campbell, who uncovered numerous problems in Darr’s finance reports, that it had undertaken an investigation. Campbell filed a complaint before Darr self-reported himself. So Darr wasn’t able to avail hiimself of the easy path that Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson took when he announced his former mistress had written some checks on his campaign account. (unbeknownst to him, he claimed.) The Ethics Commission took him at his word without deeper review, gave him a tap on the wrist and sent him on. The former girlfriend said there was a lot more fire beneath that smoke, but now we’ll never know.
Under normal procedure, Campbell would get 10 days’ notice that the commission was going to have a probable cause proceeding on his complaint. That is a closed meeting at which the commission receives staff investigations. It will accept comments from complainant and target before deciding whether probable cause exists to believe a violation has occurred. After that, further proceedings occur that can lead to a public hearing.
So far, Campbell has received no notice. A staff member says the commission tries to get to the probable cause stage within 90 days of a complaint, but the staff is small and has multiple cases under consideration. The reporting began in late August, not quite two months ago.
Legislative Audit is also doing a routine audit of Darr’s office. It has been put on notice, however, that circumstantial evidence exists that Darr used both his taxpayer-paid office expense account and his campaign account for reimbursement for the same auto trips. He also seems to have used expenses for commuting home. And he charged campaign expenses to men’s, women’s and children clothing stores, among other suspicious expenses, including UA-discounted tickets and parking for Razorback football games and a father-son trout fishing trip. There are literally dozens of potential violations in his report. Depending on how deep investigators choose to look. He also made a short-lived run for Congress, including with a hired consultant. I’m not aware if he hit the reporting standard there.
Darr has steadfastly refused comment. And his Twitter traffic has diminished considerably.