May 19 happens to the day the legislature is supposed to convene for another special session — this one on highways. Diamond State Consulting is a Republican political consulting and lobbying firm headed by Keith Emis. Clients include:
Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association
Arkansas Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI)
Arkansas Hospital Association
Cigar Association of America, Inc.
Emerick Consulting, Tom Emerick
Performance Matters Associates
Tiger Correctional Services
Emis hasn’t responded to my message about this invite. Perhaps it’s just for a few close friends. But I’m guessing that the Arkansas legislature will be slopped at this pig picking. The event does NOT appear yet on the list of “planned activities” of either the House or Senate. UPDATE It is now on the House schedule, but not the Senate schedule.
I was recently informed that, while the House and Senate and Bureau of Legislative Research no longer intend to take responsibility for accuracy and completeness of the published list of such “planned activities” (which are the loophole through which free food and drink are driven by the truckload to legislators despite the laughingly named “ethics amendment,”) that they WOULD post events when notice was given. I learned that a committee including the association of professional lobbyists and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce had devised a signup procedure and social calendar for “planned activities,” both to prevent conflicts and to provide some assurance to legislators that the free slop may be legally consumed.
But …. if a special interest such as Diamond State chooses to have an event, it need only send an e-mail to all 135 members a day in advance and the party is, as one staffer put it, “good to go.” The event need not appear on the House or Senate calendar.
The legislature and its paid staff have also decreed that these “planned activities” are NOT meetings of the legislature, which the Constitution requires be open to the public. Their reasoning is worthy of Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.” If it was a meeting of the legislature, food and drink could not be served. Since food and drink are served, it is not a meeting of the legislature. No court has ruled on this theory yet. So if you feel like picking on a pig, drop by the bridge May 19 and try to be a test case. Tell Keith Emis I sent you.
Lots of unpublicized parties seem likely to be the order of the day in the months ahead thanks to the new approach on the social calendar. The legislature did NOT like our listing of all the Big Swills. It somehow made it look like a lawmaker could be persuaded to vote one way or another by a free meal and a few drinks. I agree it’s not that simple. It’s more accurate to say that serial favors insinuate lobbyists into the good graces of key legislators over time. Ask Ted Mullenix.
PS — Emis makes good barbecue. He’s graciously invited me. I told him I dare not without a taster.