Blue Hog Report adds a number of questions to be answered before everything is sorted out related to the work of an employee of Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin in a congressional campaign now facing a federal inquiry over his activities. I also learned this morning that the office had dodged a full answer to my questions yesterday about his employment status.
Alex Reed, who’s served as spokesman and press aide for Mark Martin, jumped into headlines Friday with the Blue Hog report on his work as campaign treasurer for Republican congressional candidate Ann Clemmer. Blue Hog (Matt Campbell) noted state law that prohibits county election commissioners from participating in campaigns of candidates on the ballot in the county. Reed was appointed in March to fill the Republican seat in Pulaski County on an interim basis.
I think the state law more simply disqualified Reed from service as an employee of a candidate on the ballot in Pulaski — Mark Martin himself. Martin’s office is indicating it didn’t know about Reed’s work in Clemmer’s campaign. It certainly knew about his employment with Martin, who constitutionally has the duty to oversee elections in Arkansas. Or nominally, I should say. All hat aside, Reed resigned from the Election Commission shortly after the Blue Hog report.
Disputes remain about who knew what when and precisely when changes were made in campaign staff, as Blue Hog notes. I expect the Federal Election Commission to eventually sort that out.
But the tougher questions pertain to unauthorized disbursements made from Clemmer campaign funds to Reed and a $20,000 “loan” he made to the campaign, at least in part to repay the money. Loans are prohibited except from a candidate or financial institutions.
These are serious issues with serious consequences, Blue Hog notes.
As I reported yesterday, Reed is not at work at the secretary of state’s office. But what I didn’t report — because fill-in Martin flak Mark Myers didn’t mention it despite several rounds of email and one phone conversation — is that Reed has been placed on indefinite leave by the secretary of state’s office. He told that to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette but not me. Disingenuous, I’d say, though I’m sure the fault was mine for not saying the secret word.. These sorts of games are not unusual for that office, which has slipped around all sorts of campaign pledges to be a high-minded operation. There have been employees nvolved in political races, moonlighting on another government job by a six-figure top aide, resistance to FOI requests, flouting of the law on legal representation and lots more.
A personal aside: I’ve grown to like Alex Reed on a personal level. My disputes with his boss and operation of the office aside, Reed promptly and fully (unlike Myers yesterday) responded to requests for public information, something that sometimes required providing piles of tediously assembled documents. He also worked outside the rigid confines of state office hours. A reporter can’t ask for much more from a press spokesman.
I haven’t heard from Alex since Friday. Being placed on paid leave to get his house in order is perhaps an act of compassion by his boss. But the Blue Hog examination makes clear that it is a house that won’t be straightened easily, given the federal law pertaining to campaign treasurers in congressional races. He raises, for example, the question of how Reed, a $53,000-a-year employee who lives modestly, came up with $20,000 to “loan” Clemmer. I got an intriguing but unconfirmed tip last night that he might have hit a lottery payday to come up with the money. Lucky for him, if so. Or maybe not. Such wins can create false expectations. In gambling, the house wins sooner or later, generally sooner.
UPDATE: Bishop Woosley, director of the Arkansas Lottery, says it has no records of a win for an Alex Reed above the $500 winnings level, at which winners are identified.
But back to Blue Hog’s core question for the Republican County Committee that put him on the election commission and all the secretary of state’s staff members who work with Reed daily: Was Ann Clemmer, a state representative and candidate for Congress, REALLY the ONLY person who knew Reed was her campaign treasurer?