Rep. Duncan Baird has provided recordings of conversations between Baird and Dennis Milligan, his opponent in the race for treasurer, which call into question Milligan’s contention that he never pressured Baird to get out of the race over videos of (non-scandalous) late-night shenanigans at the Capitol. You can listen to the recordings after the jump. I think it’s fair to say that Milligan comes off as very creepy. Is he attempting to extort Baird and get him out of the race? Decide for yourself, but it definitely veers in that direction: “Here’s the bottom line, you’re finding a new career, you’re not gonna run for state treasurer. Okay? Unless you want to see this on the 7:00 news.” The strange part is the videos in question are mundane. It’s hard to imagine what Milligan thought he had.
Statement from Baird below, as well as a statement from Milligan, presumably issued before he realized Baird would release recordings of their conversations (in addition to laying on the innuendo thick over the Captiol tapes, Milligan manages to sneak in a mention of Baird’s role in enacting the “private option”). Let me recommend that folks listen to the entirety of the recordings because, well, they’re hilarious. But here are some highlights:
Baird recorded the phone call when Milligan first contacted him. “In politics, Duncan, we’ve all got our opponents,” he said. “But to take it a little worse, we all have our enemies. And apparently you’ve got some enemies out there. Because they’ve pushed some information in front of me that you need to see and you need to be aware of and it’s going to mean that we need to sit down and talk. Because there’s families involved, there’s people involved. I’m doing what I can because I don’t play…but me and you need to sit and down and we can’t do it over the telephone…”
Baird asked what kind of information Milligan was talking about. Milligan: “It’s some damaging…I’m not being coy with you but it’s something you and I need to look each other in the eye and sit down and evaluate and determine what’s going to happen… .You may not believe it but I’m actually trying to help you.” Milligan says they need to meet “somewhere out of the way… . West Little Rock or somewhere like that…I don’t want a place that I’m well known or you’re well known.”
They then met at a Krispy Kreme, where Milligan showed him the supposedly incriminating tapes (plus some similarly innocuous photos of the same crew at White Water Tavern — I wonder who is snapping pics of politicos at WWT…). Milligan briefly mentioned the accusation that someone told a security officer who didn’t allow them on the roof that Secretary of State Mark Martin would be called to “rectify this.” But his main focus was on the presence of “women that are not their wives.” Here we should pause to note that nothing remotely untoward happens on the videos.
“There’s nothing that says there’s anything bad going on, but these ladies don’t look like they’re lobbyists,” Milligan said. “They look like someone that might be independent of the legislative process.” Milligan asks Baird what his wife would think. “Do you think that’s appropriate?” he asked. Baird sounds bemused and incredulous. He notes that it’s possible for adults to hang out as friends and that his wife would be fine with him doing so. Milligan wasn’t having it.
“This involves several things,” Milligan said. “It involves you, it involves Davy Carter, it involves John Burris, who is the political director for Tom Cotton. Micah Neal is not… I don’t know about that…. Are you going to explain or let Davy explain to his wife? You said your wife’s good with it….You’re involved in other people’s lives, Duncan…You’re going to say Burris is not married. Fair enough. I don’t think my wife would appreciate me at 2:30 in the morning at the Capitol with women that…are not a part…there’s nothing that smells good about this Duncan.”
“It depends on what you think is going on there,” Baird responded.
“It depends on what the public thinks is going on,” Milligan said. “As a party, this is going to be a bad story for our party… . You’re affecting Davy’s life, and three kids. You’re affecting potentially his job. You’re affecting Congressman Cotton. Lot of pressure. You want to throw them under the bus, that’s your business. But you said it’s okay with your wife?
Milligan closes the meeting by telling Baird, “If you call me within a couple of hours, we’ll find you something else to do.”
Here’s a statement from Baird:
“A review of Dennis Milligan’s history, as has been reported in the press, caused me to be concerned that he would seek to be aggressive and menacing in this campaign. To provide certainty as to what happened during our phone call and meeting on November 7th, I recorded our conversations,” Baird said, “As it turns out, Mr. Milligan lied to Max Brantley when he said he didn’t try to threaten me if I stayed in the race. The fact that Mr. Milligan was untruthful is established by audio tape.”
“Character is about doing the right thing when no one is looking. Voters should carefully consider whether a person that will be dishonest with the public when he thinks he can get away with it is fit to hold public office,” Baird said, “In this instance I was fortunate in that I have audio tape to prove the dishonesty.“
In a statement on November 13, Milligan said, “However, at no time in our conversation did I ask him to get out of the race.”
When they met on Thursday, Milligan told Baird, “Here’s the bottom line, you’re finding a new career, you’re not gonna run for state treasurer. Ok. Unless you want to see this on the 7:00 news.”
Milligan also stated, “If you call me within a couple of hours, we’ll find you something else to do.”
And Team Milligan today issued this statement (presumably unaware that Baird was passing on recordings of the conversations).
“Any magician will tell you that you can’t deceive your audience unless you distract them,” Milligan said. “That is what Duncan Baird is trying to do now, turn the public and media’s attention to something that didn’t happen so people won’t look at what really happen that night at the state Capitol.”
“The conversation between Duncan and I is hearsay” Milligan said. “But, here’s what we do know, Baird and other legislators were video recorded going into the Capitol in the early morning hours with two women who were not their wives. A couple of them with cups in their hands and in a condition the Capitol Police officer on duty described as in an ‘unsteady state.’”
“Here what we also know, when the officer refused their request to go on the roof, someone in that group made what the officer perceived as a threat to his job because they were going to talk to his boss, Secretary of State Mark Martin, to get the situation ‘rectified,’” Milligan said. “All you have to do to see that’s correct is read the emails.”
“Baird or someone in that group should immediately apologize to that officer for making trying to intimidate the officer,” Milligan said. “If it wasn’t Baird, then he should apologize for NOT correcting the individual who made the comment or standing up for the officer. To me, that shows poor judgment on Baird’s part. Law enforcement officers deserve and should expect better from those in elected positions of trust.”
“Here’s what I would like Baird to answer, “Milligan said. “Where was he and what was he doing prior to visiting the state Capitol building? Why, at that hour did he and the others need to inspect the roof of the dome, where they there to help paint or spackle? No, I have a feeling it was not for legitimate state business purposes.”
“In an effort to distract the voters from his abuse of privilege if not abuse of power,” Milligan said. “Baird is attacking me with lies to deflect from the real story. I have been a successful small business man for 30 years; I have made a lot of deals with my word and a hand shake. I know what was said in that meeting and I’m disappointed but not surprised in Baird’s efforts to misrepresent the conversation.”
“I never said I wanted him out of the race,” Milligan said “In what I thought was a man-to-man meeting. I put all this information on the table and told him if his critics would provide that information to me, they would make it surface in other places. I knew there were too many eye witness sources to Baird’s actions and way too much information that would be FOI-ed. I felt it was only a matter of time before this story got out and I wanted to hear what Baird had to say first-hand about the situation.”
“I made is clear I was not asking him to get out of the race,” Milligan said. “I told him he has critics because of his role in replacing state Representative Terry Race with Representative Davy Carter as Speaker of the House, and also because of his crowning legislative achievement as the floor leader for passing the “Private Options” version of Obamacare in the House.”
When Baird said I told him I wanted him to drop out of the race, that is simply a lie,” Milligan said. “It is a lie designed to distract the public from what Baird can’t deny because it is all recorded in security video and e-mails.”
When we met, Baird denied being their early Friday morning and said it was Saturday morning, the night the legislators met at 12:01 to finish up the special session,” Milligan said. “When I showed Baird the time stamps on the emails, Baird claimed visiting the state capitol building at that hour under those circumstance was common. I have a feeling there will be some Republican legislators who will disagree with him. “
One thing Baird is right about in his statement. It is a matter of public trust,” Milligan said. “If we can’t trust Baird to come clean about something as small as this, what can we trust him with? How can we trust someone to handle an office where $65 million per days runs through it?”