Tuesday, July 08, 2008

TOP STORY > >Hustlin’ Lu should give back bonus and resign

Luther Hardin, the tireless self-promoter who’s itching to run for governor after Mike Beebe finishes out his second term, should give back the $300,000 bonus he received from his pliant board of trustees just for staying on as president of the University of Central Arkansas.

After he returns the tainted money, he should resign.

His pals who sit on the UCA board were grateful that Hardin wouldn’t accept the presidency at another institution, presumably the University of Arkansas, which didn’t want him anyway. The bonus was extorted from cash-strapped students who pay exorbitant textbook fees and tuition so their president and former state senator can live lavishly — and free at the president’s mansion — and plot his political comeback.

Hustlin’ Lu is making a cool quarter million a year on the taxpayers’ dime — which is what many people make around here in 10 years — plus perks and expenses. On top of all that, he does commercials not only to promote his school but also to build his name recognition when he runs for governor in five years or so.

In addition to his bonus, he’s received at least that much in free political advertising. When Hardin comes on TV, it’s time to switch to another channel or take the dogs out for a walk.

Hardin and his board at first denied he received the bonus, but when nosy reporters uncovered the truth, they apologized and promised not do it again. The entire management at UCA needs shaking up, and the money saved should go to professors and to lower tuition and fees.

There’s no telling how many secret raises are approved on our college campuses and government agencies, but the state press should find out. The Freedomof Information Act, which Lu helped write in his younger days, should shed some more light on this and other crimes and misdemeanors.

Hardin, like Beebe, is a native of White County, but unlike Beebe, Hardin switched parties and became a Republican a decade ago out of sheer opportunism.

He’s a failed politician — he was a state senator from Russellville but lost a race for the U.S. Senate to succeed David Pryor.

After Hustlin’ Lu switched parties, Gov. Huckabee made him director of the state higher education department until the UCA gig became available.

Ever grateful to Iron Mike, Hustlin’ Lu went campaigning for the former governor in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

Huckabee did all right in the presidential primaries, but his record caught up with him, so now he’s an expert commentator on Fox News as he plots another race for president, hoping John McCain will lose. Hustlin’ Lu will probably help Huckabee when he runs for president again. Hardin could keep his job at UCA for a while, but what university would want him after this scandal?

He’ll never become governor, but then there’s always the possibility of a cabinet post in the Huckabee administration. He’d fit right in.