UPDATE: To earlier post on how quickly new state business help money was gone. See the Facebook post today (shown above) from Rep. DeAnn Vaught. The stench rises.
Favored players got an early word, she says. There’s evidence that was the case on restaurant reopening, too.
Was the website live early. UPDATE: The AEDC claims the plan was to go live at 5 p.m. Wednesday and that’s what happened. But that’s not exactly the whole story. See the governor’s news conference today at which he admits “the gun was jumped.”
Further question: Is Vaught correct in saying the original plan was for release TODAY? UPDATE: The governor’s remarks indicate that’s correct. A Thursday release was planned, not Wednesday.
Were only “associations,” that is industries wth corporate lobbyists, notified the money was coming? UPDATE: The AEDC contends the only notice was at the governor’s 1:30 p.m. news briefing. Of course working people might not be hanging on every word at those events or have a lobbyist looking out for their interest. Those with lobbyists pay them to watch the governor’s briefings. The little guy in Horatio may not be so lucky. Also, the AEDC itself was forced to admit to me later in the afternoon that it had informed 300 “local economic development” officials at 3 p.m. yesterday.
Who applied and when? UPDATE: The AEDC in refusing to answer is claiming, as I expected, the section of the law protecting competitive advantage. As I said earlier, this makes no sense if they plan to release the grants. See further explanation below.
Why did some restaurant owners and others not get advance notice of the May 11 reopening date? UPDATE: AEDC says it is unaware of this.
Remember Asa defended a recovery task force headed by a young Walton billionaire and comprised primarily of corporate association heads (lobbyists). That’s who recovery is about, the governor said when asked why there were no representatives of workers on the task force. That’s never been who this has been about. His news conference remarks again today indicated he gives great deference to trade groups.
What follows is the original post, with a legal postscript:
The announcement that $15 million in state money to help businesses reopen was gone in an hour generated several questions. And the state is reluctant to answer them.
Who got it?
No money has been paid out yet, so the state says it can’t say. Fair enough.
Who applied for it?
Alisha Curtis, speaking for the state Economic Development Commission, declares that it is not public information. Unfair.
She has, as yet, not provided a legal justification for the secrecy of the names of companies seeking public money. She can’t very well claim “competitive disadvantage” — a frequent alibi by AEDC — because 1) she acknowledges recipients will eventually be identified and 2) the AEDC website says the money will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
I want to know who got in line first.
The applicants should be released and the order in which they applied should be released.
Sure, the question underlying this is whether anybody had a heads-up that this money was coming and also when it would be coming. I’m not saying it was anything but a surprise to all. But I did note with interest this quote from a restaurant operator in the Democrat-Gazette article about the limited reopening of restaurants May 11, a date that caught some operators by surprise. The quote was from restaurant owner Jim Keet:
Keet said he has been in regular contact with the governor and Scott and was aware before Wednesday’s announcement of the May 11 target.
Keet is a former Republic senator and gubernatorial nominee.
More from Lance Turner at Arkansas Business on this fund, but Curtis was no more forthcoming.
PS: Here’s the law being cited by AEDC to refuse to reveal who applied and when:
(9)(A) Files that if disclosed would give advantage to competitors or bidders; and
(B)(i) Records maintained by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission related to any business entity’s planning, site location, expansion, operations, or product development and marketing, unless approval for release of those records is granted by the business entity.
(ii) However, this exemption shall not be applicable to any records of expenditures or grants made or administered by the commission and otherwise disclosable under the provisions of this chapter;
My response to them on this theory: Baloney. No advantage to bidders applies and these are records directly related to grants to be administered by the commission.
But this is part of the same streamlined department responsible for the problem-fraught handling of unemployment claims. Calls continue to pour into legislators (and me) about cards that don’t work and telephones that aren’t answered.