Thursday, July 01, 2021

What Happens to Our Loans if the Dedicated Federal Fuel Tax Goes Away?

 It sounds like the Biden administration wants to divert federal fuel tax money to the general revenues. That way he can spend it any way they like, not just on highways. We are not sure yet if this includes the portion returned to the states. If it does, many states will have a big problem, including Arkansas. Politicians have gotten in the habit of taking out a bond issue financed by 20 years of Federal Highway Fuel Tax revenues. If those monies now go to the general revenues of FEDGOV, the state will have to make good on those bond payments with other money, from somewhere. 

I've had a long history of opposing such bond issues. They basically give whoever is in charge now the budget of whoever will be in charge 15 or 20 years from now. Ironically in this case, Mike Huckabee could have spent all the federal highway money that otherwise his daughter would get to spend. Basically, the politician who takes twenty years of highway dollars and spends them in eight better hope he made the right decisions, because that money isn't available for the next guy (or gal).

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Big River Steel Sold to U.S. Steel, Was it Worth it?


U.S. Steel has agreed to purchase the remaining half of Big River Steel for $774 million. It had purchased the first half two years earlier for $700 million. BRS was a tax-payer supported effort. We gave them incentives whose cost totaled around $240 million, plus another $50 million in Teacher Retirement Funds was used to by stock in BRS. The total initial project cost was 1.1 billion dollars. This was in 2015. This closes the books on an experiment in government going into private industry. Let's look at the history and its conclusion to decide if this is the kind of thing the state should make a habit of....

Shortly after the project was completed, steel prices collapsed. In August of 2017 BRS took out a 1.255 billion dollar loan against their assets as I reported here. In other words, they borrowed an amount in excess of their net worth when they began just two years earlier. They borrowed an amount equal to all of their initial net worth, plus about half of the $240 million in subsidies that Arkansas had provided them. 

At this point, I was concerned that the People were going to lose all of their money and the company would wind up with a net worth of zero. Thus the Democrats and former Governor Mike Beebe, who united with the so-called "conservative, free market Republicans" (most of whom favored Marco Rubio in 2016) seemed to me at this point to have perpetuated a financial disaster on the state. They were rescued from the shame of this by a man that many of them loathe, either openly or secretly. When Donald Trump imposed large tariffs on steel midway into his term, it was a boon to U.S. steelmakers. This boon was at the expense of higher prices paid by U.S. consumers of steel products.

By 2019, U.S. Steel bought a 49.9% stake in BRS for the aforementioned $700 million. Now they are buying the rest of it. Disaster was averted as the 1.1 billion spent in 2015 has ended up generating 1.474 billion dollars for the sale of the company. So that is a gain of 34% over six years. And we added several hundred good jobs to Osceola and the surrounding area. That is a good deal for Arkansas and is evidence that we are ruled by wise and benevolent people, right?

Well, if you just count the pluses and ignore the minuses, or "opportunity costs" that case can be made. But then a lot of things look good if you just count the pluses and ignore the minuses. Again, if most of them had gotten their way, Donald Trump would not have been the President of the United States and those steel tariffs would never had been imposed. In which case, BRS might be worth nothing right now. So "lucky in spite of themselves" might be a better description of the outcome here rather than "wise and benevolent."

Secondly, counting the pluses without the minuses isn't a realistic way to look at things. For example, if you add in the $240 million worth of subsidies mentioned earlier, the true start-up cost was 1.34 billion dollars, not 1.1 billion dollars. Thus the actual gain in real total investment (including taxpayer subsidies) was 0.134 billion dollars, or $134 million dollars. So the real return was 10% over six years. This is a 1.66% annual return. The lowest Ten Year Treasury rate in 2015 was 1.88% So this highly risky investment still earned less than essentially risk-free U.S. Treasury Notes.

A better comparison might be with the S&P 500. What did the gains of the S&P 500 look like during this time? Well, from the end of 2015 till now the S&P has more than doubled. This 10% return must be compared to the 100% + return of the broader market during the same period. IOW, the deal made a little money in an environment when mainstream investments made a lot of money. So for example, the Arkansas Teacher retirement fund may have turned their initial $50 million investment into $55 million dollars six years later. That doesn't sound so bad by itself, just looking at the pluses and ignoring the minuses, but if that same money had just been used to by the S&P 500 then that $50 million would have been worth over $100 million, and that number does not include dividend income! The Teacher Retirement fund therefore lost an estimated $45 million dollars in potential gains. 

All of this measures gains in dollars, but dollars themselves have been shrinking in value. If you think that inflation is greater than 1.66% a year, then in terms of real purchasing power the value of BRS could have still been negative. 

The rest of the deal is hard for us to evaluate. We don't know how much the average consumer has been hurt by higher steel prices. We know that Osceola got hundreds of good jobs, but I think I figured at the start that the subsidies for each job, given the estimated 525 of them, was something like $34,000 per year per job. If we had left that money in the hands of people in the state they would have spent it elsewhere and that money would have still produced or saved jobs. You can't just say "look at the jobs we created with that money over here" and ignore the jobs that same money would have supported if it had been left in the hands of the people who originally earned it. 

My conclusion is that the state absolutely dodged a bullet over the BRS project. By that I mean it was just a bad deal for us when it could have been a disaster. I don't advise our state government to go to the roulette table again. If a project is worth doing, the free market will do it without their intervention. The politicians who "win" these deals tend to be the one who overbid the most. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Libertarians File Signatures as "New Party for 2022


Media Advisory:  Libertarian Party to Submit Petition for the 2022 Elections

June 24, 2021 - Little Rock, Arkansas

On Monday, June 28, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas will deliver a petition to the Secretary of State seeking to form a "new political party" for the 2022 elections.  This will be the sixth electoral cycle that the Libertarian Party has sought that status.

Members of the Libertarian Party will meet on the Capitol steps at 10:00 AM, with an opportunity for the press to interact with Libertarian Party leaders about plans for 2022.  The petition, with over 14,000 signatures, will then be delivered to the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office.

The petition is being presented in the context of an ongoing federal lawsuit challenging the Arkansas legislature's 2019 action to make it more difficult for political parties to gain ballot access.  Under a court-ordered injunction and a stipulation agreed to by both sides in the lawsuit, the Libertarian Party is required to submit 10,000 valid signatures to become a political party for the 2022 elections. 


Completely ridiculous that they have to submit petitions as a "new" party six cycles in a row when their candidate for US Senate got about the same percentage of the vote as now-President Joe Biden. To top it all off, they have to fight a lawsuit because the legislature recently passed a law almost tripling the number of signatures required for them to make the ballot - even though this change has already been ruled unconstitutional on more than one occasion. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Hendren Leaves GOP, A Boon for Better Ballot Access Law?

State Senator Jim Hendren, Nephew of Governor Asa Hutchinson, has left the Republican Party and is now an independent. The basis for his departure seems to be the tone set by former President Donald Trump. Trump has denied some of the accusations in the link above that MSN reported as fact, but this seems like a thoroughly considered decision on Hendren's part. To me (Mark Moore) this is a chance to rectify Arkansas ballot access laws for independents. I shared the email below with Hendren and a number of other legislators....

To the Honorable Jim Hendren, et al

I am writing to Senator Hendren in regards to his recently expressed concern for fairness in opportunity for independent candidates. The matter is a delicate one, requiring wisdom in looking beyond one's own label or tribe in order to seek equity. I include in this message several legislators whose paths I have crossed in peace, along with two with whom I have had no dealings- my current representative Rep. McCollum and the man who will be my Representative should my contemplated move to a particular house in Fayetteville occur, Rep. Whitaker. 

For those of you who don't know, I engaged in a five year legal battle with the state regarding ballot access laws for independent candidates. Eventually we successfully overturned the law which had moved the date by which we had to submit our petition signatures from early March to May first. The date to submit signatures was restored to May 1st.

But that was not the only result of the case. The state has never fully complied with the ruling in this case as amended. Due to the aggressive tactics of the state, a situation arose where we had a need for the judge to clarify his ruling as to whether we had to file our original paper work with party candidates in early March or whether we could wait until May 1st to turn in all the required paperwork. Not just the petition signatures but the other associated filing paperwork as well. Judge Moody ruled that we could file it all on May 1st. The state appealed this and the 8th circuit ruled the point moot because I fell short in my signature drive but refused to vacate Judge Moody's decision because of the history and reputation of the Arkansas Legislature on ballot access issues. A transcript of the appeal will show that the state specifically called for a vacation because of the amendment to Judge Moody's order which I have attached, and the court still let the ruling stand.

The result of this is that it is my position that the state would lose another ballot access lawsuit if challenged on this issue. Part of the result of my suit is that the state was required to pay my attorney in excess of $54,000 and it seemed to me that the state spent much more time, energy and effort on the case than our side did. So I would easily imagine the lost value to the state was in six figures, nor was my case the only one in which this has happened recently.

There is no compelling state interest to explain why independent candidates should have to file their candidate paperwork with party candidates. They don't have a primary election. Their primary is to see if they can collect the required number of signatures (which in legislative races is triple the requirement that judges face, but this is a separate equity issue) in the 90 days by May 1st. If they know they have fallen short, it is just a waste of time and energy for the state and the candidate to have to file in March, as well as in my opinion being an unconstitutional burden on independent candidates because there is no compelling state (as opposed to private political party) interest. In Presidential years the party filing period in Arkansas is absurdly early compared to the date an independent candidate must file their petitions, so it is doubly a burden to make them file their other paperwork with party candidates. If it is the party's wish to force their members to make early choices for party reasons that should not place a burden on citizens who are not members of a party. 

I encourage you to file a bill which would change state law so that it fully complies with the judge's ruling, as attached.

With Respect, 

Mark Moore

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Is the State Scamming You and FEDGOV on the $600 CARES Act Unemployment Money?

click on picture for a larger view

I have wondered before if the ruling class of this state was running a giant scam to defraud the federal government concerning their handling of Affordable Care Act monies from 2013 to 2017? State Senator Bryan King (R, Green Forrest) concluded at the time "it's a scam." Alas we may never get the answer to that one. The records that could have shed light on the issue were sort of "placed under new management" when Governor Asa Hutchinson inexplicably and without the required legislative approval replaced the vendor which had managed the state's DHS information technology contract without complaint for twenty years with another firm even though it's bid was twenty million dollars higher! 
As for Senator King, his reward for investigating "the scam" was that the establishment of his own party ganged up on him and got him beat in a primary. Since then no one else in the legislature seems to be asking the hard money questions that he was asking. Well, maybe Senator Linda Collins-Smith, but she was murdered shortly thereafter. So again, we may never know the answer to that one.
I say all of that because recently I have had reason to wonder if the state, still under the leadership of Governor Hutchinson, isn't scamming FEDGOV yet again, along with many of its own citizens, in the handling of the CARES Act unemployment money? I can take issue with whether the CARES Act was good legislation, but this is not the issue I wish to address here today. Instead, I want to examine the question of whether the state government of Arkansas is defrauding the federal government and it's own citizens in the way it is administrating these funds.
As you may know, workers through their employers pay a little each month into an "unemployment fund" which a worker may draw from if they are unemployed later through no fault of their own. There is a maximum amount of benefits though, so even a worker whose employer has been paying in for fifteen years without interruption can only draw funds back out for a limited period. I think any unused extra money goes back into the pool, but regardless it stays in the state's hands. The maximum amount that can be drawn from the fund is presently $451 a week. Most people draw much less because the amount you can draw from your fund each week is based on your income before you were unemployed.
The state's share of the money paid to the unemployed worker, up to said $451 a week, comes from the pool of money that workers and their employers have paid in unemployment taxes. The $600 from the cares act comes from the Feds separate and apart from that fund. So that a high-wage person now on unemployment would get $451 of state money drawn from their fund each month as well as $600 of CARES Act money. That is a lot of money for not working, but let's focus on the question of whether a much larger amount of money has been taken by the state fraudulently rather than debating the merits of the act here.

Now, look at that picture at the top of this article. It is a screen-shot from an unemployment claim. Look on the row that says "Information on last week claimed". It says "you were processed on $600." The next row, "Remaining Balance" was $3,608 which was indeed $600 less than the same entry last week. The recipient got two deposits to their account, one for $451 from the state money and one for $600 from the CARES Act money.
Do you see the problem? The state is paying only $451 a month from the recipient's unemployment account, not $600. Yet it is subtracting $600 each month from that account. That $600 is coming from the Feds, not the worker's unemployment fund! Every week the state is taking $600 out of that fund even though they are only paying $451 to the recipient. This means the state is keeping $149 of the worker's money each month, and exhausting their unemployment fund much faster than it ought to be.

So imagine a worker that only got $300 in state unemployment each month (and this is more typical, few get $451 a month and many get less). They have been getting $600 taken out of their Unemployment Account each week even though the state has only had to pay them $300 from that fund. Such people tend to have smaller unemployment funds to start with, and this scam will exhaust their benefits much faster than they ought to be. And of course the state is in effect pocketing $300 a week of Federal money inappropriately instead of just $149. It is using federal money to cover its own obligations from the worker's unemployment account funds.
My conclusion is that the state has been improperly administering unemployment insurance and defrauding either FEDGOV, the workers themselves, or both. They should only be taking the amount that THEY had to pay out of the worker's individual unemployment account funds, a maximum of $451 a week, and not the $600 a week which has nothing to do with this fund.
To add insult to injury, at tax time, recipients will be asked to pay state income tax on this money. The money that was left after the state ripped them off the first time! Now maybe I have this wrong, but it doesn't look good and if so someone needs to show why. You may think "there must be some explanation, they wouldn't be this brazen." But they would be, and they have been, and the Big Lie Theory counts on the very fact that people simply refuse to believe that their leaders would be so brazen in order to make it work. They use your own refusal to accept they could be that bad to get away with being that bad. Why has no journalist raised this issue? Why has no Republican official has blown the whistle on this, and no Democrat has either? It is past time citizens kicked both parties to the curb and started something new, in my humble opinion.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Obamacare Isn't Saving Us from the Chicom Virus, and Ending It Won't Make Us Less Safe From It

The Democrat-Gazette ran yet another highly biased wire report yesterday on the so-called "Affordable Care Act". It started by saying...
The Trump Administration touched off another politically charged battle over the future of the Affordable Care Act with its latest maneuver to dismantle the law during a pandemic — a move that Democrats lambasted and few Republicans defended.
It went on and on quoting people about how terrible it was that anyone was even considering rolling back any aspect of Obamacare while this highly infectious disease was ravaging the country. It was almost strident in sending the message that we now need this nationalized healthcare plan more than ever.

They are the only state-wide newspaper and have been a primary source of information for Arkansas voters for many decades. Politicians are afraid to cross them. Thus, they must bear significant responsibility for the poor economic conditions and ongoing political corruption and dysfunction in our state. They owe us reparations, though the blame also falls on those of us who are so shallow and inept as to continue to give them credibility just because they are big and loud.

I didn't vote for Donald Trump and I have no plans to in November either. Still, the story is extremely poorly reasoned and misleading. Obamacare is the law of the land. Our healthcare infrastructure is now built around it. If America's response to the pandemic has been inadequate it must be at least in part because Obamacare isn't good at dealing with a crisis of this kind and magnitude. It is a clunky, centralized, inefficient and unwieldly administrative nightmare that was cobbled together by giving a vast array of interest groups a piece of the taxpayer pie. It wasn't even built to be a flexible and rapid response to an infectious disease, and it is consuming a vast amount of resources which could otherwise be spent on an effective response. 

In fact, a strong argument can be made that the more committed a state is to Obamacare, the weaker its response has been to the crisis. Nineteen states have not enacted a critical piece of the Obamacare pie. They haven't expanded Medicaid to every healthy adult below the federal poverty line. So there health-care infrastructure isn't as centralized and ordered around Obamacare as it is in the other thirty-one states.

Now, let's look at the death-rates for the Chi-com virus by state....
I'd like to thank Alan Clark for his recent statistics on COVID-19......
Deaths per million from COVID-19
Worst nation in the world Belgium 851 
New Jersey 1670
New York 1610
Connecticut 1210
Massachusetts 1150
Rhode Island 870
District of Columbia 850
Louisiana 680
Michigan 610
Illinois 540
Delaware 520
Maryland 520
Pennsylvania 510 
If you remove these states (the worst 12 ) from the numbers the rest of the United States has performed better than most of the world.
What do each of these twelve state have in common? They are all among the states which expanded Medicaid. IOW these are the states which fully embraced Obamacare. If it were a matter of chance, at least four of these states should be from the group which failed to expand Medicaid, instead, none of them are. If there is any relationship between how well a state has dealt with the COVID-19 crises and degree of integration of Obamacare then it is an inverse relationship. The more a state integrated it's health-care system with Obamacare the less likely it is that they had a lower death-rate from the illness.

The biggest problem early on in America was that testing was far too slow. This produced chaos in our early response because no one could tell if they were infected or not. This too was a result of an overly-centralized healthcare delivery system. In this case, early on the CDC insisted that all testing would go through them. The centralized response slowed things down and it wasn't until things were out of hand that they threw in the towel and let a decentralized approach to testing resolve the problem. Would that have been more likely or less likely to have been the case without Obamacare imposing a centralized, if clunky, healthcare system on the nation?

Government has a legitimate role in stopping the spread of highly infectious diseases. There is no evidence to support the belief that Obamacare is the best way, or even a good way, to do that. We don't need Obamacare to protect us from COVID-19, and there is evidence to suggest that we could do better without it.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Libertarians Will Stay on Ballot, 8th Circuit Again Rules Against State

The state continues to try and defend ballot access laws which have repeatedly been declared unconstitutional and the judges continue to rule against them, but just the process wears down new parties.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Nice and Illegal Gesture from SOS John Thurston

An Email from Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston concerning the filing of the annual "Franchise Tax" for businesses. Notice that the second paragraph acknowledges that the due date of the tax is set by law. Then says, "however we thought this would be one way to help companies who may need a little extra time..."

Well, that sounds like a nice gesture, but if the date is set by law, is it a nice gesture that the Secretary is legally allowed to make? I consulted the latest AR Code I could find on the matter and here is what it said...
26-54-107. Computation of tax — Penalty — Relief.
.....(A) If the taxpayer fails to comply with the filing and remittance requirements under § 26-54-105(c) by May 1, the Secretary of State shall assess the corporation a penalty of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) plus interest on the tax and penalty from the date due until paid at the rate of ten percent (10%) per year....
That doesn't sound like the penalties are optional under state law. He has to assess them. However, I thought "maybe he has authority to waive them after he assesses them"? So I kept looking at the code. He does have some power to waive the penalties, but not at will, only under specific narrow conditions. To whit...
(c) The Secretary of State or his or her designee may agree to settle or compromise a dispute concerning interest or penalties associated with corporate franchise taxes if the taxpayer:
(1) Disputes the proposed amount; or
(2) Is insolvent or bankrupt.
(1) The Secretary of State may waive any accrued interest or assessed penalties imposed on a taxpayer due to a failure to remit corporate franchise taxes under § 26-54-105(c), if:
(A) The taxpayer is reasonably mistaken about the application of this chapter or the computation of the franchise tax to the corporation; or
(B) A taxpayer cannot pay the accrued interest or assessed penalties because of the taxpayer's insolvency or bankruptcy.
(2) The Secretary of State may waive any fees that a taxpayer owes if the taxpayer desires to dissolve the corporation.
The only one of those conditions which could even remotely be applied to this situation is (d) (1a). That is, "The taxpayer is reasonably mistaken about the application of this chapter ".  They might reasonably be mistaken about it because they were confused by the Secretary of State's own pronouncement on the matter! He didn't have the legal authority to change the due date of the taxes, but because he told people the date was changed the people that he mis-informed should not be held accountable for late payment. They may have based their decision to late-pay on the mistaken assumption that their Secretary of State knew what he was talking about!

So now that this has happened, it may mean that every corporate franchise in the state can hold onto their cash for a couple of more months without penalty (Your individual state income tax however, is still due on time!). On the other hand, state programs and agencies looking for funding probably have an interest in the taxes being received in a timely manner, and the normal amount of penalties for late filings being collected. If we are lucky, none of them will sue over this.

Maybe the Secretary of State is clever enough to realize that he could end-run the state law on this because the confusion he would created with the announcement would itself justify his waiving the penalties. Or maybe, and I think this more probable, he just doesn't have a good understanding of the rule of law and is running his office like its own fiefdom rather than a member of the Executive Branch keeping his oath of office to "faithfully uphold the laws of the state of Arkansas." And because I am a stickler for "Integrity of the Process" as well as oath-keeping, I believe that even if he can get away with it, it is still a terrible way to operate that undermines the rule of law.

It isn't that I disagree with the decision to delay collection of taxes, though it should apply equally to corporations and real people alike, but rather that it is the legislature who should make that decision rather than an Executive Branch officer unilaterally deciding he is going to effectively re-write state law.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Crazy Early Filing Period Clamps Down on Voter Choice

The filing period for party candidates to run for public office begins tomorrow, November 4th 2019 and ends about a week later. Traditionally, the filing period isn't normally until March of the election year. Why is the filing period so early?

The state legislature says they want to align with "Super Tuesday" in the Republican Presidential Primary. This professed goal is ridiculous on its face, since Arkansas is still too late to be a momentum-builder state like Iowa and New Hampshire, and will always have a small part of the total delegate pie. We won't ever have a major role in picking the Republican nominee, especially this time. Unless of course the GOP establishment has some secret plan to flip on Trump and remove him from office after impeachment.

I think the larger reason for the early filings is referenced in the article. The incumbents in the dominant party in the state want less competition! From the link: “Early filing period always makes it harder for candidate recruitment,” said Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray. “People feel like they just came out of an election.”

It isn't like there is a surplus of choice for the voters. The piece also notes" " In last year’s midterms, 47 out of 118 state legislative races (exactly 40%) fielded candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties, the most since 2012." So the most competition in years features only 47 out of 118 races where the two major parties face off. And it is liable to be worse than that in 2020 because the early filing period is reducing the number of candidates.

I realize there are a lot of people in this state who are happy to have a one party system. Some of them may even deserve to be well governed, but others don't. A lack of competition, especially when competition is reduced by law as is the effect here, is unhealthy for a free society.

You may think it is OK because the utterly corrupt and dysfunctional Democrat Party is getting the worst of it here, but that's not true. Outsider groups who want to mount primary challenges to establishment Republicans are hurt by this rule. Libertarians are hurt by it. Independents are in particular hurt by it. There is no good reason why an Independent should be required to file for office a year before the election just because the leading party in the state decided that was the best time for them to file!

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Why the Razorbacks, and the State, Continue to Underperform

Arkansas Razorback Football is in terrible shape, and with a few exceptional years it has been for a very long time. Even our good years were purchased at a deferred cost- Bobby Petrino was an Offensive Genius, in more than one sense of the word. I think I know why we have under-performed for so long. It's the same reason our state has under-performed even though we have abundant natural resources, a hard-working population and a central location. It's the leadership. When a unit, any unit, consistently under-performs for a long period of time even though those running the unit have ample authority, then it is almost always because of some deficiency in the leadership.

In the case of the University of Arkansas Football program, I think the big boosters care more about having a coach that hob-knobs with them than finding a strong leader. Ken Hatfield was the biggest winner in Razorback Football History. He was also an Arkansas boy who was not interested in leaving for a higher-paying program. He was a man of impeccable integrity. It was hard to know where to fault him. But he would not go drinking with the big boosters.

Hatfield says he was not offered an extended contract for the position of Head Football Coach. They could have made him the field house janitor under the contract they offered him. I believe him. We have a media in this state which protects people in "the club" so there was no real coverage of this issue. So Hatfield left and most of us never quite understood why. If we are serious about changing course, it starts with doing the right thing, which would mean the university apologizing to Ken Hatfield, but I don't think they want to fix things that badly. Not badly enough to take a hard look in the mirror.

If they want a coach that will suck up to the big boosters, then they can't have the kind of alpha dog who doesn't need to suck up to the boosters to get a job because he can get hired on his ability alone. If they want suck-up yes-men then they are going to get the product on the field that we have had- but at least coach shows up at our events! This is a recipe to only attract coaches who are weak in ability, or character, or both. We've had more than our share of those types over the years. If you do get one who is good at the job, he will come with other baggage like Petrino. Petrino still had to suck up even though he knew how to coach winning football because of the character issues.

It is no co-incidence that we excel in the sports that the big boosters and the ruling class of our state don't care much about. Without their meddling, we do great. There is an inverse relationship to the success of a University of Arkansas Athletic Sport's program and the degree of involvement our ruling class has in that sports program!

So they should start by apologizing to Ken Hatfield. Will that "lift the curse"? I don't know if it is mystical like that. I am not saying it will change God's mind about Razorback football. But it will change the minds of the people running the place. Repentance can do that. It can change us. And it would send the right message. Right now, I think a lot of the top names would avoid us because at those levels word gets around. The new coach needs to know, in a very public way, that they can focus their efforts on improving the product on the field. We have to put the coaches we hire in a position to win. That's the only way a winning coach will accept the position.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

8th Circuit Let's Decision on Independent Ballot Access Stand

This week the 8th Circuit Court issued a ruling on the Ballot Access Case we have been working on for over five years. The District Court ruled in our favor on re-hearing, but the state appealed even though the legislature caved and changed the law back. They will fight to the last taxpayer dollar to keep competition off the ballot, and then look you in the eye and tell you they believe in free market competition!

Of course, the judge's order was written so that Mark Moore, as an independent candidate, could file not only petitions but also filing paperwork as late as May 1 of last year - instead of forcing Mark Moore (your reporter) to file with the party candidate's much earlier. Heck they will be filing in November of the year before the election next cycle. Since party candidates have a primary but independents collect signatures for ballot access in lieu of a primary, there is no good reason to make them file with party candidates. So I wish they had considered that part of the ruling.

We asked that question at the appeal, but the judges ruled that since the state had changed the law, the state's appeal was moot and dismissed the whole thing. The only question addressed was whether or not our victory in district court would stand or be vacated, since the state did not get an appeal. The majority ruled that due to the state's history of making laws about independent ballot access that subsequently were thrown out, that the precedent should be left.

The rookie judge, Stras, said our victory should be vacated because the Secretary of State did not get the appeal due to "happenstance". I think the court needs to take a closer look at things in Arkansas. It is not "happenstance" because both the Legislative and Executive Branches are controlled by the same party. They did it to themselves. To say it is "happenstance" for the Executive Branch when the Legislative Branch changes the law back to make a case moot is to pretend that the system of checks and balances that the Founders set in place has not been short-circuited. It has been- by the dominance of political parties whose candidates dominate both branches.

Although I like the ruling I also want to point out that it didn't quite get things right in its summary of the legal proceedings. They wrote:
Moore failed to file those documents by the March 1 deadline, and the Secretary thereafter moved to vacate the injunction as moot, claiming that Moore was ineligible for the 2018 ballot because he had missed the statutory filing deadline. The court then extended the filing deadline for the notice, affidavit, and pledge at Moore’s request.

Well, what actually happened is that the state filed a notice of appeal of the decision on the 2nd day of the Candidate Filing Period. They did not have to disclose what the appeal was about until after the filing period was over. So I would have had to file for office with an unknown cloud hanging over my head. That had a chilling effect and I did not file during the party filing period. The state's actions helped precipitate my failure to file those documents. But it turned out their aggressive tactics backfire on them as you will see if you read on.....

When I complained to my main counsel, Jim Linger of Tulsa, about it, he noted that Judge Moody's ruling seemed to permit me to file everything, not just the petitions, as late as May 1st. So I decided to run for state senate and set about getting the necessary signatures. Unfortunately, my calculations of the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot did not consider voters who voted in the previous election but subsequent to my getting the voter data left the district. Thus I under-estimated the number needed.

I turned in what I thought was about 125% of the signatures needed to get on the ballot. I figured that this was just enough to get me on. It turned out, because the number needed to get on the ballot was higher than I thought, I only turned in 102% of the signatures needed. Many of those signatures were thrown out, as they always are. So I failed to make the ballot, and that's OK. Failing to get enough signatures is like failing to get enough votes in a primary. You should still have the right to try.

The state went into a mode of primate-defecation over our pointing out that the judge's order permitted me to file ALL my paperwork, not just my signatures, as late as May 1st. I think the circuit court spoke loosely when they claimed that Judge Moody extended my filing deadline for the other candidate filing paperwork. All he did was clarify his original order. And there is absolutely no good reason for an independent candidate to have to file when party candidates do. We don't have a primary election in the Spring. Why should we have to file at the same time as people who do?

Read more about it on Ballot Access News

Read more about it on Ballot Access News

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ledges' Brazen Attempt to Pull Ladder Up Draws Libertarian Lawsuit

For Immediate Release:  3-29-2019

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas filed a complaint in federal court yesterday seeking to overturn the provisions of a new law that makes it more difficult for third-parties to get on the ballot in Arkansas.  Act 164, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor last month, increased the number of petition signatures required for the formation of “New Political Parties” from 10,000 to 26,746 (3% of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election). 

The Libertarians’ lawsuit calls the new requirement “an unconstitutional, unnecessary, and excessive petition signature requirement” that “serve[s] no compelling state interest.”  It calls upon the court to declare the requirement as an unconstitutional infringement on the plaintiff’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “to actively engage in the exercise of their free speech, right to political association, right to petition, right to form a political party, seek redress of grievances, cast an effective vote and equal protection and due process of the laws of the United States of America.”

The chair of the Libertarian Party, Michael Pakko, expressed confidence about the party’s prospects in court. “We told our legislators that they were re-establishing a standard that had been overturned in federal court back in 2006, but they passed it anyway.  We have clear precedent on our side.”  Pakko was referring to the case of Green Party of Arkansas v. Daniels, where the court overturned a 3% requirement that was subsequently replaced by the 10,000-signature standard.

When asked for comment, Richard Winger, a noted expert on ballot-access laws across the nation, pointed out that there have been not just one, but two cases where Arkansas’ petition requirements have been invalidated by federal courts.  In 1996, Citizens to Establish a Reform Party In Arkansas v. Priest also struck down a requirement for signatures totally 3% of the vote.  “It is truly outrageous that TWICE a federal court has struck down the 3%, and yet the state has done it a third time.  That makes this case unique in the whole country's history of ballot access litigation.”

Libertarians are also challenging aspects of the more recently enacted law that shifts primary elections from May to March in presidential election years.  In the process of moving primary election deadlines forward, Act 545, signed by the governor earlier this week, also affects third-parties and independent candidates.  “As if to add insult to injury, they made it even more difficult by moving the deadlines,” said Pakko.  “Prospective challengers to the established incumbents shouldn’t have to form parties and select candidates over a year before the general election.”

The complaint filed yesterday, Libertarian Party of Arkansas et al. v. Thurston, asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas to declare several provisions of recently-enacted laws as unconstitutional and to issue an injunction to permit the Libertarian Party of Arkansas to submit 10,000 valid signatures to demonstrate sufficient support for the formation of a new political party.  The action would enjoin the Arkansas Secretary of State, John Thurston, from enforcing the contested provisions of the new laws.