Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her dad, former Gov. Mike Huckabee. Brian Chilson

Given Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sandersspotty record on veracity, one can’t be blamed for viewing her office’s claims through a skeptical lens.

During her time as White House press secretary, Sanders famously explained away a lie about FBI Director James Comey’s firing as a slip of the tongue, but only after Robert Mueller called her on it.


Normally, Sanders’ strategy is to deflect accusations by hurling some of her own. Call it the “I know you are but what am I?” strategy, or maybe, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

Laugh if you want, but Sanders has used this strategy to great effect for years now. As queen maker Donald Trump taught us, sticking with your story even when the whole world knows you’re lying is a surprisingly unbeatable tactic.


Which brings us to #podiumgate, a growing rumble over a mysterious invoice for a mysteriously expensive lectern ($19k!), paid for using a mysterious process under mysterious circumstances.

While Sanders’ steadfast spokeswoman Alexa Henning told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week that this elusive lectern definitely exists and is ensconced in the governor’s office, she provided no visual proof. The June invoice for it is dated days before Sanders and crew headed out for gay Paree. *The state paid for it, but the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state months later, after Blue Hog blogger Matt Campbell kept sniffing around.


The confusion about who paid for the lectern and when stems from “an accounting error” that’s since been remedied, Henning said. The Republican Party of Arkansas has since picked up the tab, and we’re square.

But podiumgate isn’t going away. On Sunday, Campbell and his growing chorus of naysayers got closer to vindication as social media sleuths laid out some new evidence.


While Beckett Events LLC, the slinger of said lectern, isn’t in the retail business, they’ve certainly put on events that required lecterns before. Notably, Virginia Beckett co-owns with Hannah Stone another company, Salem Strategies LLC. Salem Strategies handled logistics for Trump’s bellicose Jan, 6, 2021, speech at the Ellipse, from which a riled militia of dipshits launched their deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. The congressional Jan. 6 committee took note.

On Sunday, intrepid keyboard warriors noticed that Beckett and Stone both happened to be in Paris at the same time as Sanders, at the tail end of June, right after that invoice for the phantom lectern came in. Some rapt political observers hypothesized the payment to Beckett Events was for something besides a very expensive lectern.


But really, what of it? Sanders and her legislator acolytes have a shiny new tool to deny any public records requests they feel like denying, simply by saying the magic word: “security.” Sanders signed a new exemption for Arkansas’s Freedom of Information Act into law Sept. 14, with an emergency clause to take effect immediately and with a retroactivity clause to cover up records dating back to June of 2022, six months before Sanders even took office.


Arkansas State Police can withhold any information they say relates to Sanders’ or her family’s security, from here on out.

Incredibly, we’ve already seen the ASP abuse this law before it even went into effect, redacting names of Sanders’ travel companions on the state-owned plane. A technical trick by one of those pesky keyboard warriors later revealed the rather boring list of names the ASP had attempted to conceal. As Debra Hale-Shelton wrote:

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.

This revelation makes it pretty hard to buy into State Police Director Mike Hagar’s insistence that revealing who’s on a plane with the governor could put lives at risk. It also begs the question: What else might state government hide for no good reason? Unfortunately, with the September passage of Sanders’ FOIA rollback, there’s no real way for us to know.

People are pretty mad about it, even some Sanders-supporting Republicans. Luckily for the governor, being a Huckabee means never having to say you’re sorry.


Consider a dust-up from 1997, the first time our now-governor was named in a would-be scandal over creative accounting with taxpayer dollars, only to be rescued by a deep-pockets supporter. Sanders was a high school kid who just happened to be the daughter of the governor at the time, fully blameless (although possibly impressionable).

Young Sarah wanted to take a friend along with her parents to a National Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, ferried west on the state’s King Air and put up in a Vegas hotel. A reporter at the Memphis Commercial Appeal spotted the unusual flight report for the trip and started asking questions about who paid for what. At the time, Gov. Mike Huckabee was taking hits for using a mansion fund to pay for dry cleaning, a dog house, groceries and pantyhose.

Journalist Joan Duffy’s 1998 report indicates that a Huckabee family patron coughed up the money to reimburse the state that time, offering a model for the Republican Party of Arkansas to follow in 2023. Read that vintage Commercial Appeal story here.

Unlike his daughter, Huckabee couldn’t shield his expenses in the name of security. Still, it didn’t seem to hurt him any. Huckabee went on to run for president, even making a pretty good showing in Iowa in 2008. Speaking fees, television appearances and a gig peddling snake oil sleeping aids yielded enough money to buy an oceanfront Florida manse. Today, Huckabee has his own talk show on a Christian TV network and his own line of right-wing children’s books.

With his daughter now in the Governor’s Mansion, it’s possible Huckabee even enjoys some free travel on the old King Air every now and again, although state legislators just made sure we will never know it.

*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated when the invoice for the lectern was paid.