I ranted before about the enabling legislation sponsored by Sen. Jon Woods and Warwick Sabin for the so-called ethics amendment that has allowed higher pay, longer terms in office and created a huge loophole around the supposed end of lobbyist wining and dining.
That’s not all. The little ol’ enabling bill says that a public official has 30 days after being given notice of a flawed ethics (financial statement, campaign finances) report to correct an “unintentional error.” The loophole in this is obvious as I wrote before. Public officials will naturally claim ALL errors are unintentional. Who’s to prove otherwise?
Already, the ethics mulligan is now in use.
You may remember that Little Rock lawyer Matt Campbell of the Blue Hog Report has filed a voluminous ethics complaint against Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan, including a number of problems with his campaign finance reports.
Campbell shares with me a letter he got from the state Ethics Commission on its complaint. It says it appears to the Commission that Milligan may be able to raise an “affirmative defense” to a number of Campbell’s allegations and thus it should not have to investigate — unless Campbell has evidence to the contrary.
Understand? To be guilty of a campaign reporting violation now, it is not enough to demonstrate a prima facie violation almost a year after an election. It is enough to say the violation was unintentional. Then, it is up to the complainant to provide evidence — without subpoena power and access to anything but public record — to the contrary.
It’s a free pass for public officials. It stinks. And it’s yet another example of the emptiness of the so-called ethics amendment that voters approved.
Campbell says Milligan filed 13 amendments to his reports on Friday, some of them amendments to amendments.