Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports this morning that the Arkansas National Guard Foundation is ending its agreement to pay $10,000 a month to Catherine Johnson, wife of Sen. Mark Johnson, to assist it in fund-raising.

She’s been paid $70,00 to date and will get $30,000 more under a contract severance agreement.


As I reported yesterday, Johnson had fund-raising contracts — worth $324,000 a year to Johnson, the sole employee of Catherine Johnson and Associates —  with the foundation, World Services for the Blind and the Sultana Historical Preservation Society.

Grants worth $6 million to those agencies — including $5 million for the Guard Foundation — were held up by the Legislative Council Thursday so members could get more details on Catherine Johnson’s arrangements with the nonprofits. Mark Johnson said she would receive no money directly from the nonprofits and they say the same. She’s nonetheless paid substantial sums by these three agencies seeking public money and her contracts indicate her work includes seeking such grants.


Guard Foundation Executive Director Damon Cluck told Wickline Johnson had done good work for the organization, which supports Guard members and their families, but it could no longer afford the payments because its assets had dwindled to $1.3 million.

I noted yesterday that the $5 million public infusion into the foundation was a striking amount for an organization with only $1.5 million in assets on its last tax return and a record of distributing only about $40,000 a year in benefits. The Hutchinson administration is backing a grant from state reserve funds of more than triple the nonprofit’s current assets.


The grant delay was only the latest in periodic questions by some  legislators about fund-raising by Johnson’s wife for organizations that seek legislative help. She is not a lobbyist, but a registered fundraising counsel.  A Senate rule change a couple of years ago limiting the use of Senate offices by family members for business meetings was prompted at least in part by questions about Catherine Johnson, senators say. The rule:

Sen. Johnson has always said all rules were observed by him and his wife. It was his disclosure Thursday morning of her work and announcement he wouldn’t participate in a vote that led to the delay in approval. Rep. Mark Lowery, Republican candidate for state treasurer, tried to get a substitute motion to approve the $6 million in grants, though they hadn’t been discussed in committee. He withdrew the motion when objections were made.