State Rep. Joe Jett of Corning today told Joint Budget Co-Chair Duncan Baird that he wanted to put a hold on the multi-million-dollar appropriation for the University of Central Arkansas until he could meet with school officials about former Sen. Gilbert Baker’s extensive fund-raising for Republican politicians as a taxpayer-paid lobbyist for UCA.
UCA President Tom Courtway has defended Baker’s work as being on his own time and constitutionally protected.
Jett sees it differently.
“I want UCA to know that they have a state employee taking state money and bundling money for people trying to run against my people, and it hit a nerve with me. We’re pissed off.”
Jett is minority whip. Democrats hold 48 of 100 House seats and a 49th member, elected as a Green Party candidate, typically votes with Democrats.
Jett said, “I want to sit down in the room with those folks and explain why we’re not happy.” He and others only learned for the first time from my reporting today of Baker’s $60,000-a-year job as a sitting senator for a shadowy dark money group (contributors unknown) that poured $200,000 into defeating Democrats in the 2012 legislative elections that flipped both houses to the Republican Party.
It could be, I observed, that efforts such as Baker’s and that of other similar privately funded groups have been so successful that Baker thinks the total Republican takeover is inevitable and he’s not concerned about blowback from Democrats.
“I might not get anywhere,” Jett said, “but they’re going to know the members of my caucus are not happy with them.”
He said Courtway might “bow up,” but “at the end of the day we get to vote on some of his appropriations.”
He said, given recent events, UCA should be more sensitive about bad publicity.