Gov. Asa Hutchinson and AEDC Director Mike Preston went on a Chinese trade junket earlier this month and it appears the governor’s son, Asa Hutchinson III, was along for at least some of the ride.
So far, neither the governor’s office nor the AEDC has responded to my specific questions about Asa III’s presence in China, but his law firm website indicates he does business with Chinese enterprises that have benefitted from taxpayer subsidies provided by his father’s administration.
A reliable source provided the screenshot of an apparent recent Facebook post by the governor’s son shown above. It is not on his Facebook page now so I can’t wholly vouch for its authenticity. The governor and his son are flanking a Chinese person in the middle of the photo. The son’s Facebook page does contain some shots that indicate he’s been traveling China in recent days. See them below.
Asa Hutchinson III is managing partner at the Asa Hutchinson Law Group of Bentonville. Its website says it is “an international business and immigration law firm with offices in Arkansas, Washington, DC and Madrid, Spain. The Firm serves diverse local, national and international clients spanning from individual entrepreneurs to multi-national corporations.”
The law firm features a photo of the governor as a founder of the firm. It lists as clients TY Garments, the Chinese garment maker mentioned in the picture above. It received some $3 million in benefits from state taxpayers to open a factory in Little Rock.
The Hutchinson Law Group also lists as a client Risever, a Chinese equipment manufacturer that recently received $1 million from the governor’s quick action closing fund and other state incentives for a plant expansion in Jonesboro. The firm also lists Dragon Woodland, which was established in 2016 to export timber to China and which recently opened a sawmill in Helena-West Helena to acclaim from the governor’s AEDC. Other clients listed include such familiar names as Arvest and Walmart.
UPDATE: state handout to Dragon, from AEDC:
The AEDC provided this summary on the recent China trip:
The governor et al will meet with some existing partners and others companies with potential to move operations to Arkansas.Agenda:Nov. 2 – Depart Little RockNov. 3 – Arrive in Nanjing, ChinaNov. 4 – Jiangsu and Shandong provincesNov. 5 – Shandong Province & BeijingNov. 6 – Beijing & Osaka, JapanNov. 7 – Osaka & TokyoNov. 8 – TokyoNov. 9 – return to Little RockTotal estimated cost: $53,500 + expenses to the foundationAttendees:Governor HutchinsonMike Preston – Commerce/AEDCJordan Bearden – Governor’s officeLindsay Liu – China – AEDC ChinaNeal Jansen – Japan – AEDC JapanBen Walters – AEDCJeff Long – ASP
Asa Hutchinson III’s travels in China have continued, as indicated below from Facebook. He apparently was in Shandong yesterday, home of the garment maker, and in Beijing the next day, as the governor’s itinerary planned. Why do I inquire beyond the obvious? Politically connected sons working with foreign enterprises have been in the news recently.
I have asked the governor’s office about the governor’s son reporting clients who’ve received direct financial benefits from the governor. No response so far. I’ve also attempted to reach his son by phone and email without success.
UPDATE: The governor’s press seretary offered this response today, but none to the question about appearances.
He traveled to and from Asia at his own expense and separately. He is not part of the official Arkansas delegation.
In addition to appearances, questions remain about whether he was included in such official visits as a drop-by to the U.S. ambassador. Perhaps the governor will answer some to press bulldogs of Arkansas in a media availability via Skype in his conference room at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It will be live-streamed.
From the Hutchinson Law Group pages showing clients: