Thank goodness tomorrow is runoff day. The nasty GOP races for attorney general and Senate District 17 will end. Above is a picture from a mailer that went out in Senate District 17 today. It features Sen. Johnny Key, who’s vacating the seat, with Rep. John Burris, who’s seeking the seat against teabagger Scott Flippo in the Republican primary runoff. The race is all about the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which Burris piloted and which Key supported.
The seat is open because Key didn’t run so he could seek a job as lobbyist for the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Smelled like a done deal, though it came out of the oven a little different than anticipated. The sitting senator was hired instead for a previously unfilled job, lobbyist for the University of Arkansas system. The UA system, as well as the Fayetteville campus, were helped immensely by university funding overseen by Key during the last sessions of the legislature.
But here’s the other cozy angle: The mailer is from the Faith and Freedom Coalition, another one of those shadowy outfits that don’t disclose much about their sources of money. It’s an operation headed nationally by Ralph Reed, the infamous Moral Majoritarian. The Coalition has an Arkansas affiliate that used to pay then-Sen. Gilbert Baker $60,000 or so a year to help elect like-minded people to the legislature. Religious Right Republicans, in other words. Tax documents stopped listing Baker as an officer not long before he hit the Senate revolving door for a university lobbying job himself, at UCA. That UCA job fell apart after it was learned that ol’ Gilbo also had a private “consulting” firm on the side and was hip-deep in funneling money into candidates for legislature and judge, some of it most curiously timed. Donnie Copeland, an Apostolic minister, has been listed as leader of the Arkansas affiliate on the most recent documents. in 2012. Baker was still a board member, along with Chris Stewart, the lawyer who created all those PACs that nursing home magnate Michael Morton stuffed with money about the time Judge Mike Maggio was cutting him a $4.2 million break on a jury verdict.
Something about senators with university connections that resonates with the Faith and Freedom crowd, I guess. This mailer just says Faith and Freedom Coalition. Doesn’t include Arkansas in the title.