Sheffield Nelson kicked off the silly season in Arkansas politics today in hosting a press conference to call out Sen. Jonathan Dismang. He claimed that there might be an ethics compliant filed by somebody who he did not name at some point in time in the future…maybe.
The argument Nelson is trying to make is that Dismang has a conflict of interest in his opposition to raising the severance tax because he took campaign contributions from those in the natural gas industry. These contributions were fully disclosed on Dismang’s finance reports, but Nelson believes they show he can’t be trusted.
I am not sure if Nelson believes all political contributions are bad. If so, I assume he will not be making any political contributions in the future or at least not to anyone who might later represent his personal best interest. I assume he will also return all the contributions made to his previous political campaigns to make sure he does not have any conflicts of interest. Right?
It is likely news to the gas companies that Dismang is in their back pocket considering his support for an eminent domain bill in 2009 which they heavily opposed. In fact, they were so upset of his support that they paid for robocalls against him during his 2010 campaign.
The reality is Nelson is upset that Dismang dared speak out against his proposed increase in the state severance tax. Dismang – along with 18 other legislators – sent a letter to the Arkansas Municipal League last week saying they opposed the increase with concerns it would harm jobs.
“(Dismang) either intentionally misled you in his letter or he simply does not know what he is talking about,” wrote Nelson to the Municipal League in a letter last week. “He has publicly aligned himself with the multi-billion dollar natural gas companies, along with a number of other legislators, to the point of saying he is defending them, so you can draw your own conclusions. I have rested under the apparent misimpression that legislators are elected to represent and defend the people who elect them, not the gigantic, wealthy corporations.”
Companies will continue to give to candidates who they think will support issues that are in their business’s best interest. Until someone completely changes our political system, that’s the way it works. Dismang’s only crime is daring to question Nelson.