In six years as Arkansas’s attorney general, Leslie Rutledge has been little more than a Trumpian pull-string doll. Whatever travesty is in vogue with the president and his minions — undercutting the Affordable Care Act, making it harder for a woman to get an abortion, rolling back environmental protections — Rutledge has been sure to issue statements and file lawsuits in support. But in the last year, she’s tried to rebrand herself as a crusader for the little guy, spending $1.7 million in the fiscal year that ended in June on advertisements featuring herself. The ads, usually branded as The Rutledge Report, often have a consumer protection theme and have appeared on TV, radio and online. They’re paid for with public dollars from the consumer education and enforcement fund in Rutledge’s office, which holds recoveries from corporations that have damaged state citizens.
When the Arkansas Times asked the attorney general’s office for an accounting of ad spending, a spokesman’s first response was to point out that previous attorneys general had advertised similarly. But by comparison, Rutledge’s spending this year alone came close to matching the $1.8 million her predecessor, Dustin McDaniel, spent during the eight years of his two terms. The readers of the Arkansas Times saw through this PR push and recognized that Rutledge, considered a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2022, has been using public dollars to burnish her image. They voted her office’s spending the Worst Misuse of Taxpayer Dollars in this year’s Best of Arkansas survey.