Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, today will file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission against former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for using campaign money for personal expenses, as a federal indictment alleges.
If proven, the charges could result in fines and state prosecution, though most Arkansas ethics law violations are misdemeanors. A similar case against former Sen. Paul Bookout turned into a federal prosecution that sent him to prison.
Hutchinson skated on a previous complaint about his campaign finance by self-reporting a violation and blaming it on a girlfriend. It would be fair to guess today that he wanted to stave off a deep review of his finances.
The ethics law, lacking felony punishment and including a do-over rule for violations, is largely toothless and it’s further weakened by a tiny enforcement branch controlled financially by the legislature.
Lee’s complaint could bring some of that into focus.
Recent events suggest the legislative sewer is deep, much deeper than the Ethics Commission can purify. Even the FBI is strained to get it all.
“I’m here to represent the people of Arkansas. Candidates don’t normally do this sort of thing, but unfortunately our elected officials aren’t watching out for the people of Arkansas. They are more interested in their own political agendas.
Here we are, with a laundry list of dirty deeds, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has failed to act. Our ethics system sits motionless in the face of corruption and immorality in the state Capitol.
But I can’t let this happen to our state. That’s why I have filed this formal ethics complaint with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. I am here, to put the wheels of justice in motion.
Real ethics change comes with personal responsibility. That’s what I’m trying to live up to today, as a citizen, before I step foot in office as Attorney General.
I’m urging the Ethics Commission to launch an investigation and to start setting this thing right. I’m excited for the results of this of this ethics complaint, and expect quick action.”