Nearly a month has passed since the Republican Party of Arkansas (RPA) reviewed documents related to an FOI request at the UALR Law Library concerning the left-leaning Blue Hog Report.
The blog covered state politics from a liberal and progressive viewpoint, often in support of Democratic candidates or causes. After the FOI requests in late May, the Blue Hog Report shut down.
GOP officials made the requests to the library and at the Arkansas Supreme Court in an effort to tie partisan political activity on state time to bloggers Matt Campbell and Jeff Woodmansee – operators of the Blue Hog blog – which had been critical of Republicans, particularly Secretary of State Mark Martin.
A FOI request to the Supreme Court, where Campbell works, led to little documentation and nothing of a partisan nature.
The request to the law library, where Woodmansee is employed, produced thousands of pages of documents, but he says none showed anything inappropriate.
"The matter was reviewed by law school counsel and administration officials and no wrongdoing was found. Honestly, I have moved on and figure they have too. I won’t be commenting any further on this matter," Woodmansee tells Talk Business.
But his story is different than the one claimed by the Arkansas GOP, which won’t back up its assertions.
"On July 5, we reviewed documents provided by our FOI request and retrieved only specific items of interest which dealt with partisan political activity. At this time, we do not plan to move forward with any action as it appears political activity on state time has stopped," said RPA spokeswoman Katherine Vasilos.
Talk Business requested documentation from the GOP to support its claims of partisan activity and was told by Vasilos that "certain emails retrieved suggested political activity could be occurring on state time."
But while Republican officials are willing to make the accusation, they’re not willing to provide proof.
Talk Business blogger Jason Tolbert, who writes from a conservative perspective, also requested a review of the documents in question to support the Republican Party’s claim that partisan activity was occurring on state time.
“We could provide the documents but we are choosing not to,” RPA executive director Chase Duggar told Tolbert. “Since we are satisfied that partisan activity is no longer occurring on state time, we are moving on.”
Previously, Tolbert had requested to review these documents after a report in late June from the Arkansas Times that thousand of pages from the FOI request filed with the UALR Law Library had not been picked up by the party. At that time, Duggar claimed that they were still reviewing the documents and would provide any evidence they found after their review was complete.
When pressed whether the party had any obligation to provide proof of the charges they had made, Duggar still refused saying, “Our job is to win elections. That is what we are focusing on.”
UPDATE: Talk Business’ Jason Tolbert crawls through the e-mails retrieved by the Arkansas GOP and concludes there’s not much there. Read his take at this link.
Talk Business’ Jason Tolbert and Roby Brock are co-authors of this report.