Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EDITORIAL >Beebe makes amends

The Arkansas Democratic Party, which sorely needed a warm wind after its shellacking in November, got a gale. Gov. Beebe donated his surplus campaign cash, $881,000, to his broke and moribund party. That should mend the feelings of many Democrats, who thought the governor did far too little to help the party in a season when he breezed to election while Democrats all around him foundered.

Beebe raised a whopping $5 million for his re-election campaign when he could have won handily on a ten-dollar bill. Beebe spent $4.2 million while his opponent, the happy but hapless Jim Keet, was beating himself with every dollar he spent. Keet finished the campaign $171,000 in debt to himself and the bank.

A candidate cannot keep his surplus campaign cash and the law requires him to dispose of it quickly after the election. Beebe’s campaign report shows that he made four gifts to the party totaling $881,279.

We can think of a few charities that would have been better, more deserving beneficiaries but the money was raised, after all, for politics. Who can seriously quarrel with his giving it to his desperate party? Certainly not the Republicans, who benefited from enormous transfers of cash from better-heeled fund-raising entities to candidates in pivotal races like Arkansas congressional campaigns, before the election when it counted.

Many Democrats think Beebe had a big obligation to the party. Though he was promised a safe re-election and he was titular leader of the party, he did little to help Democrats down the ticket, except his good friend Shane Broadway, his sidekick and then floor leader in the legislature. Despite the governor’s strong demonstrations of support, Broadway narrowly lost his race for lieutenant governor. Democratic lawmakers who had helped build his popular record of success went begging and down to defeat. In this strange election season, the popular governor’s coattails were useless unless he openly tendered them.

Beebe’s gift seemed to say that next time it will be different.