Michael Lamoureux, Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s chief of staff, has issued a prepared statement about his payment as a consultant by a political nonprofit during the time he was president pro tem of the Arkansas Senate.
He’d earlier told me that he’d ceased taking legal or consulting fees after joining the governor’s staff. His statement:
“Concerning my work for Faith and Freedom: at all times I followed the law and ethics rules and reported any income received by my law firm on our tax returns. This position in no way influenced my job as a state senator.
“The nature of the work I did for F&F included traveling to recruit candidates, recruiting and organizing volunteers, educating candidates on our issues, and handling legal issues as they arose.
“I was last paid for this work in early 2014 when it was decided that F&F would wind down operations.”
Claudia Lauer of the Associated Press reported that the Arkansas Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative political organization, had paid Lamoureux $120,000 in 2013 as a consultant and that the organization drew on money contributed by tobacco companies, a nursing home concern, a nursing home owner and lobbying firms.
Since the fee was paid to Lamoureux through his law firm, he was not required to disclose specific payments in his own statement of financial interest filed yearly. Other legislators have consulting businesses that also are beyond the reach of disclosure laws.
The coalition, we’d previously long ago, had paid Gilbert Baker, now a lobbyist, when he was an influential member of the Arkansas Senate.
To repeat: Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it smells good.
An agent for the coalition was former Republican legislator Marvin Parks. He’s also the leader of another nonprofit political group, the Arkansas Civil Justice Institute. It works to change the law to make it harder to sue for damages and is active in encouraging judicial candidates with meshing philosophies. Gilbert Baker was also associated with this organization
I earlier today linked to tax filings by that organization. It reported spending almost $357,000 on consultants over three years through 2014, but it didn’t disclose either sources of the money or recipients of the consultant fees. Parks has not responded to my request for specifics, which don’t appear on either state or federal reporting forms. But he did respond to one specific question:
Mr. Lamoreux was never paid or involved with ALR in any way.
Our ethics and financial disclosure laws for legislators, lobbyists and political nonprofits with advantageous tax circumstances are too lax. Of that, I’m sure.
I’m also sure this story hasn’t run its course.
UPDATE: To stay tuned completely on this story you need to follow Claudia Lauer at AP.