Sunday, June 17, 2018

More Rules to Turn Rascals into Honest Men

I noticed that the State Senate was in a hurry to put in some new "ethics rules" while they still have enough members not under indictment to muster a quorum. Bear in mind these are the same folks who in 2014 referred to us something that they called an "ethics amendment" which deceptively claimed in the title that it was to "establish term limits." What it actually did was greatly weaken already existing term limits. But the deceptive wording fooled enough people to get it passed. Hopefully we can undo that this November.

Not that that was the only thing wrong with the so-called "ethics" amendment. It contained hidden language that could be used to have a chilling effect on anyone who wanted to run for a large office as an independent. It even included rules which, if they were caught mis-appropriating campaign contributions, gave them thirty days to pay back what they stole before the ethics commission could censure them! Yep, that's right (or wrong). If they get caught stealing, they have 30 days to pay it back before they can be penalized for stealing! These don't enumerate all my objections to that so-called "ethics" bill, but let's just say it was the most unethical "ethics" bill in my lifetime and leave it at that. The guy who wrote and sponsored it, Jon Woods, is now out of the Senate and on trial for taking bribes. If he walks, it may be because an FBI agent destroyed evidence that could have been used against him.

In addition to all of that, the two Senators most determined to do something about the huge corruption involving Arkansas Works, Bryan King and Linda Collins-Smith, were recently narrowly defeated in Republican Senate primaries by opponents who were heavily backed by the Governor and enormous sums of money from some of the same special interests which are doing the looting. Conduit for Action had a good, though not complete, roundup of the corruption.

So you will excuse me if I am more than a little skeptical at these proposals from the senate on new ethics rules from the article which I linked to in the opening paragraph. For one thing, you cannot make rascals into honest men and women just by putting more rules on them. You have to do the hard work of ridding yourself of the rascals and right now the people of Arkansas don't seem to have much appetite for that. This makes all of us victims, but too many of us are also accomplices. The two-party system is a system that honorable people should no longer support. If we have to start something new ourselves, return to self-government, we should do that.

Let me give you an example from the article of something that raises red flags for me...
"The proposed rules also would prohibit certain activities that involve conflicts of interest. Hendren described these changes as “really the meat of this.”
For example, he said a senator would be barred from seeking or taking a benefit, other than official compensation, for public duties under the proposed rule changes, “so if someone pays you to do something in your role as a state senator,” it would be an ethical violation."
They are making a rule against something that has not been the problem. The problem has been pay for "jobs" that are ostensibly not related to their role as Senators. For an example, please see this article called "worse than a revolving door" where a Senator takes a job spending money for an outfit that is appropriated indirectly by the Senator himself. Yet this job is "not related" to his role as Senator. The real graft has been from their being hired on as "consultants" or "attorneys" and getting paid all out of proportion to their work as such. That would not be banned under the proposed rule changes. They would only have to disclose such payments, simply bringing corruption out into the open on the gamble that the voters of Arkansas are too ignorant, immoral or blinded by party partisanship to care.

Don't get me wrong, I favor the disclosure requirements, but I question the window dressing of an outright ban on payments related to one's official role while consulting and attorney's fees need only be disclosed. I foresee this having unintended consequences unless they make some reasonable exceptions. For example, if a boy scout troop wanted Senator Pureheart to come speak at their event on government policy, he would be banned from receiving mileage and hotel expenses, or any other monetary benefit, for doing so. This would have a chilling effect on his ability to perform such a service. Meanwhile Senator Graft could continue to pull in six figures as a "consultant" for PolluteCorp so long as he disclosed they were giving him the money.

Then there was this jewel....
The proposal would create a five-member Select Committee on Senate Ethics appointed by the president pro tempore with three members in the majority party and two members in the minority party.
Any senator who believed there was a violation of the code of ethics could file a complaint with the committee, which would investigate. The complaint would list the name of the accused, the accuser, the provision violated and a description of the suspect activities.
The Senate would be allowed to punish any violator with penalties ranging from a letter of caution to expulsion.

This proposal would grant the Pro Tem extraordinary power and freeze out any other party besides the two established ones, or independents, from this powerful committee. I have zero doubt that it would be politicized as everything else they have touched as been. Those opposed to the Governor's agenda would be targeted repeatedly on the slightest technicality and harassed with a stream of baseless claims. Those in the club would have to shoot someone on the capitol steps to get censured by this committee.

Just look who Sen. Hendren wants on the committee....
Hendren said he wants Sens. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View; Jason Rapert, R-Conway; David Wallace, R-Leachville; Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia; and Bond to serve on the committee.
Jason Rapert? Are you kidding me? Jason Rapert thinks that disagreeing with Jason Rapert is an ethics violation. Also an affront to God Almighty! Can you think of a less objective person in the State Senate?

The whole thing has the effect of centralizing power and making the party system stronger. IOW it is strengthening the very thing that is the root problem. History teaches us that one party rule breeds corruption. Every time. Without exception. Those of you who think its different this time because its your party are utterly wrong about that and your error is hurting our state and my family. So repent. Don't stiffen your necks or harden your hearts. Just replace wrong with right, lies with truth, and injustice with integrity. Rules don't change rascals into honest people, especially the rules they write themselves. We need repentance. We need a heart change, from the voters to the Governor's office.


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