Halter Lines Up Another Big Donor for Lotto Campaign
Some people can suck-up like a remora to the big-money crowd.
Lt. Governor Bill Halter has persuaded Warren Stephens to contribute $50,000 to his campaign for a state lottery whose profits must go to fund higher education. This is on top of the $300,000 contributed by Little Rock real estate developer John Bailey. Those two contributions along with Halter's own make up the vast majority of funds raised for the campaign. Not exactly a grassroots effort.
Why would those men want to associate with Halter's flawed lottery proposal? We can only speculate. The Baileys may want to one-up another prominent Arkansas family, the Murphy's of El Dorado. Murphy Oil's "Murphy Promise" scholarship program is winning raves all around. Maybe John Bailey saw this as a way to get his own family's name on a scholarship endeavor. Murphy Oil is putting up 50 million dollars and directly using it for scholarships. Maybe Halter is telling him he can be a part of something that will generate 50 million a year in scholarship money and thus outdo the Murphys.
One difference in the two approaches is that the lottery money will come from the pockets of predominately poor Arkansans, not the profits of an oil company. The other difference is that trading my $4 for a gallon of Murphy USA gasoline is a moral economic transaction where both sides can win, gambling isn't a moral economic transaction because for me to win, you have to lose. It thus violates one of the most fundamental moral laws, the golden rule.
As for Stephens, who can tell what is motivating him? I am sure that he is not going to be out any money for this though. Some of the lottery campaign fund will be spent on ads in Stephens newspapers, likely more than the $50,000 he is putting up. But the big prize is the advertising budget that will be part of the "operating costs" of the lotto. So state media outlets like the Stephens newspapers stand to make a pile of money as the lottery commission spends advertising money in order to entice new suckers. This does not bode well for our chances of getting fair and accurate reporting on the wisdom of this lottery proposal from our state media.
Now there is one area where I feel Halter has gotten a bum rap. I don't want to take up for him, nor do I want to trash him. My goal is to tell the straight-up truth and sometimes that will mean defending and other times attacking. The ratio of the two will be dependent on the integrity with which public men operate. Halter's office has gotten criticized because they have done some work promoting the lotto proposal on duty.
Folks, not only do I not see anything wrong with that, but Halter's opponent (Jim Holt) in the election, whom I of course supported, promised to do the exact same thing and nobody raised a word of complaint. He did not promise to support a lotto amendment, but he promised to use the office to rally support for ballot initiatives that the people wanted but the legislature refused to pass. The media attacked Holt in every way, fairly and unfairly, but I never heard them raise the issue of whether or not it was proper for the Lt. Governor's office to push for ballot measures. The only ones that griped about it were political people who wanted the Governor to be like a little dictator with no agenda allowed outside of the Governor's. It is a public policy measure, so what's the issue with pushing for it on public time?
This lottery proposal is terrible public policy, and even if you favor letting people gamble, doing it by expanding government and giving the state a monopoly on the business is the worst possible way to do it.