Friday, March 18, 2011

EDITORIAL >>GOP hypocrites

Benjamin Disraeli once said that a conservative government was an organized hypocrisy, although we are not sure it could not be said as well of a liberal government. But, were he around today, Disraeli could summon the new conservative Arkansas legislature as all the proof he needed.

We are indebted to the inveterate blogger, Blue Hog Report, for unearthing the facts. Blue Hog was amused by the sizable Republican bloc in the House of Representatives that was stymieing state appropriations for the next two years because they included some increase in spending to offset higher energy costs and the like. One was the Arkansas School for the Deaf, which was seeking a spending increase of $532.42 a month, which was enough for the Republicans to block the appropriation. They said they were determined to hold down government spending.

But how about themselves? Blue Hog checked the expense vouchers in the state auditor’s office for the first two months of the year and discovered that nearly all the naysaying representatives had finagled to give themselves a big salary supplement, ranging from $1,250 to $2,050 a month apiece. They did it by forming a business, with themselves or their spouses as the owner and usually with their homes as the business address, and then billing the state for providing services to themselves. It might be for renting an office to the representative—the dining room or a spare bedroom perhaps—or providing consultation or advice to the representative. “Say, self, how should I vote on this bill?”

Mark Martin, the new secretary of state (see editorial above), did that for six years, and the word apparently went out to all the new Republican lawmakers that they should replicate Martin’s scam to maximize their pay. Legislators, you see, are paid a salary of $15,000 a year (they meet on average for eight weeks a year) plus ample per-diem reimbursement for days they are actually attending meetings in Little Rock. They are allowed to collect reimbursement for actual expenses occurred in their legislative duties back home, if any, but the expenses must be documented through receipts or invoices. Otherwise, it is merely additional salary, which is illegal. Thus all the new incorporations, some of them filed with the secretary of state the week that the first expense checks were cut.

Any one of the 30 Republican lawmakers who voted against the budget for the deaf children could have paid that increase easily from their own falsified expense collections. We think it’s all illegal; at best, it is rank hypocrisy. —E.D.