The Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint Friday against a PAC involved in peddling racially charged slime supporting U.S. Rep. French Hill in his successful re-election campaign against challenger Clarke Tucker.
Vernon Robinson, a North Carolina crackpot, was behind the Black Americans for the President’s Agenda PAC, which pushed the controversial radio ad targeted at black audiences during the campaign, a cartoonish bit of sleaze that you can listen to below. Robinson is black; the money funding the effort appeared to come from wealthy white conservatives, such as an owner of the San Francisco Giants (the Giants quickly put out a statement distancing themselves from the ad).
Hill condemned the ad, which he deemed “outrageous”: “There’s no place in Arkansas for this nonsense.”
An official from the Republican Party of Arkansas then filed an Ethics complaint, which argued that the PAC failed to properly register and report its financial information in the state.
On Friday, the Ethics Commission found that because the ads were for a federal race, Robinson’s PAC did not have to register in the state as an independent expenditure committee, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Something to file away for the next cycle of congressional elections in the state, as the dark money floods the airwaves.
And keep in mind: Even if the Commission issues a slap on the wrist against a PAC after a campaign is over (which almost never happens), the damage has long since been done. Robinson kept his ad on the air despite all of the condemnations and the filing of the Ethics complaint. The maximum penalty for this complaint was a fine of up to $2,000. I have the nauseating feeling that we’ll be hearing from Robinson again.
During the campaign, Democratic Chair Michael John Gray credited Republicans for condemning this particular ad, but zoomed out to the larger issue:
However, this ad isn’t a one-off. It follows racist political mailers from Senator Tom Cotton’s Super PAC and numerous intellectually dishonest messages from the other side in campaigns across the state. Arkansans deserve better. Leaders of political parties should campaign on ideas, solutions, and priorities, and not promote stereotypes and misinformation. Leadership should be about leading, not about winning at any cost.”
And here’s a portion of Gray’s strong original statement on the ad, prior to the response from Hill and Republicans, which called it “overtly racist, dangerous, and immoral”:
This pro-French Hill radio ad is racist. It demeans the pain and experience of African Americans and exploits for political gain centuries of segregation and racial violence, including lynching.
Here’s the ad:
This is a real radio ad currently running in Arkansas in support of Republican Congressman French Hill on radio stations targeted to the African American community. I don't even have words to describe it. pic.twitter.com/vpzt1nGPlc
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) October 18, 2018