Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View never responded yesterday to my questions about her decision to hold a lobbyist-studded campaign fund-raiser at a luxury high-rise condo in Little Rock during the middle of the current legislative session, but she did respond to an Arkansas Fourth Facebook inquiry. Defensively, of course. From that page:
Arkansas Fourth: I can’t believe you went to a fundraiser and took lobbyists’ money while the State Legislature is in session. Wow. That’s really pretty sleazy, isn’t it? I think the people of Arkansas are beginning to get a pretty clear picture of your values and sense of ethics… or lack thereof. I think you have some explaining to do.
Sen. Irvin: There is not a rule against fundraising during the fiscal session in the Senate. Policy is not bring written or voted upon. We are merely funding the government. There have been fundraisers for people all last week and this week.
Me: No, there is not a rule, but you know, and I know, and the voters know, it’s sleazy. It appears that you are being influenced in your votes by money. Now, can you explain why you want to deny 100,000 of the poorest Arkansans the opportunity to have health care? And/or, do you have an alternate plan for those people?
Even if money were the only issue, campaign fund-raising would remain sleazy. The billions spent annually by government are fought over fiercely by agencies public and private. For example, even if UCA lobbyist Gilbert Baker, in bundling campaign contributions for Republican legislative candidates really was only concerned about higher education funding, he’d still be purchasing goodwill on legislative votes with the money he’s raising. (Baker, of course, has other interests at heart, such as the nursing home lobby).
So Irvin, one of the holdout nine Senate votes that could upend the private option expansion of Medicaid could not be more wrong on the larger question of policy. This legislature — and a tiny minority including doctor’s wife Irvin — are dealing with a fundamental policy issue. Is health care a necessary and proper cost of government? Will the state of Arkansas, on account of ideology, accept federal money to help working poor people get health coverage or oppose it on the ground that it’s too expensive and not the federal government’s business?
That sounds an awful lot like policy to me. Absence of a rule or law against shaking down lobbyists during the legislative session doesn’t scrub the sleaze off.
And really Sen. Irvin. What if one of your kids offered as an excuse for a lapse in judgment “Everybody else is doing it.”
A reminder: Here’s the No Good Nine, the Cruelty Caucus in the Senate currently standing in the way of reauthorization of health insurance of 100,000 newly insured fellow citizens. Yes, it includes mean and punishing amendments from Rep. Nate Bell and others intended to begin strangling the program, but it’s still better than the end of the DHS budget, which Missy Irvin’s no vote would produce. Thank them for their humanity if you see them this weekend. And you might ask if your senator is the one rumored to have been bribed with a big chunk of GIF money to flip. Surely not. Surely a small government Tea Party budget hawk wouldn’t take nasty surplus money for personal political aggrandizement as a condition for helping the working poor.
Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers
Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale
John Cooper, R-Jonesboro
Jim Hendren, R-Gravette
Jane English, R-North Little Rock
Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs
Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View
Bryan King, R-Green Forest;
Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch