Photo of Matthew Campbell
MATTHEW CAMPBELL: Lawyer turned journalist joins the Arkansas Times news staff. Mary Hennigan

Matt Campbell, a lawyer whose Blue Hog Report blog is more famous than ever now thanks to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has learned the names of the passengers on all those state-financed plane trips by Sanders. And despite the governor’s claims, none of the information reveals a security threat to anyone, much less her children.

In a series of social media posts late Monday, Campbell began by saying he had finally been able to read the poorly redacted information on Arkansas State Police records he had previously obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, which is now under assault by Sanders and some Republican legislators. He was able to do so with a little technological help from a friend by “simply changing the background color of the cells on the excel spreadsheet ASP produced,” Campbell said.

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Not surprisingly, the records show Sanders’ ever-clingy hubby, Bryan Sanders, and their children on what Campbell says was “clearly personal travel” at state expense. Other passengers at times included more less-than-exciting names, such as gubernatorial staff members to Republican House Speaker Matt Shepherd and Arkansas State Police personnel.

Frankly, there are few, if any, surprises or juicy details in these findings. What’s mind-boggling is that the state police chose to break the law they’re supposed to uphold and instead illegally redacted this public information. More disturbing is that Sanders freaked out and called an expensive special legislative session to gut the FOI Act over such silliness. Nothing about these disclosures endangers anyone’s security.

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Here’s one list of flight information Campbell accessed, for example. Keep in mind that the flight was long ago — February. So, we can be sure the flight won’t be endangered because of this disclosure.

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While attending today’s legislative proceedings, state police spokeswoman Cindy Murphy said the now-unredacted documents are legitimate as far as she knows. I’ve emailed her seeking further comment.

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Campbell’s tweets also raise questions about the accuracy of some of the flight logs. For example, he noted that a Feb. 23 trip to Monticello lists no passengers. But, Campbell wrote, “We know there were passengers, because we have a redacted email from her [the governor’s] people with a list on it.”

Speaking to a state legislative committee today, Mike Hagar, the state police director, said the agency has always released flight logs but not operational details. He contended security threats could come from information revealing who was not on a flight as well as who was. Sanders is using the plane a fraction of the amount used by past gubernatorial administrations, he said.

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Hagar apparently thinks he can read minds as well as flight logs. Those submitting FOI requests just want that information to embarrass the governor, he said. State police don’t care about information that might embarrass her, he said. Security information is what they want to protect, he said.

Still, Hagar acknowledged, “I don’t believe for a second he [Campbell] is a physical threat to the governor.”

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But, Hagar said, “We cannot have those records out there to where anyone can look at them who have more sinister motivations than simply trying to embarrass her.”

“There are people out there who are going to take that information. They will use it to make [an] attempt at the governor,” he said.

“She’s a polarizing figure. We get lots of threats,” Hagar said.

Update: In an email today to the Arkansas Times, Campbell said the governor’s response “is definitely an overreaction on her part.”

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“I think she was either worried about people seeing that she took a personal flight with her kids or she’s paranoid about people knowing anything she’s doing, so she panicked and called this session to try to stop my lawsuit,” he added. “I guess no one explained to her that changing the law, even retroactively, doesn’t moot my lawsuit because that would be a textbook due-process violation.”