Politically and legally, the ongoing dust-up over Gov. Sarah Sanders’ big spending on a standard-looking lectern bought from her longtime associate for a whopping $19,029.25 feels suspect.
Basic questions about who made this mysterious lectern and why it was so pricey still float out there without satisfactory answers, as auditors authorized by the Legislature to look into what’s become known as the “podiumgate” scandal are just beginning their work.
The executive branch either ducks questions or fires back accusatory half-answers delivered with a sneer. At an Oct. 17 press conference, Sanders said she had not yet used the new lectern because if she did, the media would focus on that, and not on what Arkansans really care about.
And what do Arkansans really care about? Chinese seed espionage, Sanders says. She’d called the October press conference to suggest enemy farmers are at work right under our noses, infiltrating a 160-acre Craighead County agricultural technology facility that a Swiss outfit sold to a Chinese company in 2017.
Why would anyone care about possible malfeasance in the governor’s office when an ag company that’s been here for decades is owned by Chinese people? That was the message, delivered from behind a lectern that was not *the* lectern. Lobbing xenophobic attacks makes for an effective distraction when you’re in the hot seat.
All this fuss could have been easily avoided had Sanders opted for a do-it-yourself model. First Gent Bryan Sanders seems to have plenty of time on his hands. Somebody get that man a drill!
Isn’t she a beaut?
The governor’s office allowed Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photographer Thomas Metthe to take a proof-of-life snap of the mysterious lectern on Sept. 26, but other media who later came looking for their own footage were turned away. Instead, the gov’s crack comms team shared this well-lit glamour shot, all dolled up with flags and a stately runner. America!
The custom lectern is shorter than standard-issue versions to better accommodate women, the governor said. An invoice indicates it’s 39 inches tall, rather than an off-the-rack adjustable 49-inch version that can be got for $12,000 less.
Lots of how-to videos exist online if you want to try your hand at a homemade version. Here’s a supply list and pricing. It might take a whole day, but you’ll save yourself $18,924.
one 2″x8″: $6.62
one 1″x8″: $7.98
one 1″x2″: $1.58
one piece 48″x96″ plywood: $65.65
pocket screws: $6.97 for 100
wood glue: $5.49 for 8 ounces
wood filler: $9.28 for 6 ounces
brad nails: $2.18 for 17 nails
The price of this lectern, purchased from the state of Arkansas at the public property surplus warehouse. Maybe the state should have held on to it. Seems fine?
At least this silly scandal has a silver lining. Arkansas no doubt leads the nation in etymological awareness when it comes to the difference between a lectern and a podium.
Thank George W. Bush for this hourglass lectern design (if for nothing else). He wanted a middle-ground option between a spindly, informal tray on a stick and the linebacker silhouette of the boxy “Blue Goose” presidential lectern. Paul Morse/georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov
The last time the eyes of the nation turned to a lectern-related scandal was eight years ago. Aaron Schock, a Republican congressman from Peoria, Illinois, took fire for using House funds on a $5,123 custom lectern. But it was the “Downton Abbey”-inspired redecoration of his Capitol Hill office, along with chartered planes, Katy Perry tickets and other high-rolling purchases, that got him indicted. Charges were eventually dropped, but we haven’t seen him around much since.
The price tag at the center of podiumgate has evolved into a surprisingly handy unit of measurement. Arkansans are finding it’s fun to gauge the cost of things in lecterns instead of dollars. A brand-new 2024 Kia Soul will run you one lectern, for example. Arkansas’s median individual income is greater than one lectern but far less than two. One lectern comes out to 3,466 Big Macs (or, one for each resident of Piggott).