It’s easy to go Shakespearian on Tim Griffin. He’s an ambitious and dangerous man, as anybody who’s been on the receiving end of his “unleash hell” political war room tactics can attest. Ask Al Gore.
Ambitious? Ask Bud Cummins, ousted as U.S. attorney in Little Rock by a Karl Rovian plot so that yon Tim could be employed.
Griffin’s poison infects his friends. Remember when a gang of doctors’ wives set upon U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder and his wife, braying at a Little Rock restaurant about the hell their boy Tim would be unleashing on Snyder.
Snyder’s growing young family eventually prompted his decision to retire from Congress. Now, high irony, Tim Griffin has made the same decision, citing too much time away from kids. But he’s not leaving politics. Later this week, despite have said contrary several times, he’ll announce for lieutenant governor.
Griffin wants to be governor. For now, he’ll settle for a job with no meaningful work requirements. He can use tax money to employ a big staff to advance his brand and pocket almost $4,000 a month in spending money, for himself. Plus, there are occasional junkets to exotic locales. The office platform allows him to issue news releases on whatever moves him.
What will Griffin do for real money to maintain his wife and kids in proper style in their Tara-style Heights mansion? He’ll probably go back into “public affairs,” as he has before. It’s sure to create an odor. A public affairs strategist is not necessarily a lobbyist working to influence legislation, but the differences are so slight — and the special interest paymasters so similar — that it’s a distinction with little difference.
In 2009, Griffin knocked down $440,000 in public affairs and legal work. He claimed a big portion of that was from work in commercial litigation in Texas, but I’ve been told a close examination would find much of the heavy litigation lifting was done by the Quattlebaum law firm of Little Rock in that case. That public affairs work? Who knows who all employed him?
He made some headlines at one point by working in Alaska in behalf of the mining industry to defeat a ballot measure to protect a prime wild salmon breeding ground from open pit mine pollution. Miners won.
If such work doesn’t create a direct conflict for an Arkansas public official, it’s still likely to create indirect conflicts. A political issue in Alaska might well have a similar parallel in Arkansas. It’s why Arkansas law, in theory, explicitly prohibits legislators from working as lobbyists.
Whatever the legalities, Griffin’s resume isn’t a populist brag sheet. He was chief counsel on a $35 million snipe hunt by Republican congressmen to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton. He was enmeshed in Bush campaign efforts to suppress minority votes in Florida. He was linked to the Swift Boating of John Kerry. He’s been slavish in his devotion to the mineral extraction business, notably the environmentally fraught Keystone XL pipeline.
And now he wants to live in Little Rock while he plots his next power grab.
Asa Hutchinson should brush up his Shakespeare. Should he and Tim make the winning dream Republican team that many in the party see (sorry Charlie Collins and Andy Mayberry, the big money won’t be coming your way in the GOP primary for lite guv), he might want to watch his back. The notion of Tim Griffin sitting quietly in the second chair of Arkansas government for eight years seems uncharacteristic.
Ask Bud Cummins.