As I predicted last night, the Arkansas Ethics Commission threw the book at Sen. Paul Bookout today for basically spending his campaign funds like his own personal play money back in 2012. Granted the Ethics Commission is somewhat limited in how big of a book they can throw as the state legislature writes the rules.
In a motion from Commissioner Bird – appointee of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr – the Commission imposed “a fine against Sen. Bookout in the amount of $2,000.00 for each statutory violation, which is the maximum fine available to the Commission for a single violation, for a total fine of $8,000.00.”
How big? Shoffner big. “Maximum” amount means that fine is as big as the law allows.
And so you would understand their actions, they also put out a peek of what he did wrong.
He improperly spent over $8,000 on a home entertainment system, over $5,000 at Steamroller Blues for women’s clothing, which I can only assume was for a family member, and took out almost $7,000 in cash. He was living large on money that was not his.
But alas, Bookout somehow seems to think that he can just put the cookies back in the cookie jar and pretend it never happened. His statement today sounded more like it was written by a defense attorney who was advising his client not to admit to any wrongdoing than it did a remorseful politician. Let’s take a look…
“I respect the process of the Arkansas Ethics Commission that led to their decision and I fully intend to abide by it.”
That’s nice of him, but does he honestly have a choice?
“I have cooperated with the Commission on these matters since the issues first arose and were brought to my attention.”
You’ve got to ask how cooperative someone is who shows up at the initial hearing without his expense detail, does not agree to a settlement, and then no shows the final hearing.
“I do not intend to appeal the decision.”
Yes, because he has no case. He was caught red-handed.
“Amended contribution and expense reports are being filed today in conjunction with the Commission’s ruling. Those reports were updated to the best of my knowledge and ability.”
I asked him for copies. He said I can get them from the Secretary of State, which I did. You can see the expense details here. In addition to the above items, you will see payments to liquor stores, shoe stores, a bunch of restaurants, an apartment complex in Little Rock, a hotel in Fayetteville, somebody named Emily Smith, and of course multiple payments to himself.
“I value the trust my campaign donors place in me with their political contributions. To that end, I will be reimbursing my campaign approximately $49,000, and then repaying contributors pro-rata over the next 30 days. This is not required by the Ethics Commission’s decision, but I feel it is the right thing to do, given the ruling of the Ethics Commission.”
Yeah, just put those cookies back in the jar.
“I am honored to serve the people of my district in the Arkansas Senate. I look forward to completing my final term in office focused on the issues.”
In other words, he ain’t quitting over this little thing. I mean look at all the good he has done.
Not to be outdone by Bookout’s un-apology and commitment to not resign, the Democratic Party of Arkansas spokesperson backed him up.
“Senator Bookout has a strong record of service in the Senate. It is my understanding he is reimbursing campaign donors over these issues with his campaign report. He can put this behind him and continue his service to the people of his community,” said Candace Martin, communications director with the Democratic Party of Arkansas.
Simply unbelievable. But from a party that brought us State Rep. Hudson Hallum who traded chicken and vodka for votes and State Treasurer Martha Shoffner who took money hidden in pie boxes, I guess this is not that big of a deal to them.
In addition, Republican Senator Pro Temp Michael Lamoureux put out an incredibly weak statement saying, “I respect the decision of the Ethics Commission. Sen. Bookout has been a valued member of the Senate and a friend.”
Are you kidding me?? I have reached out to several other Republican Senators and have not heard back. Surely they are not circling the wagon in the Senate for him – right?
UPDATE – Congressman Tim Griffin replied to my post on twitter saying. “He absolutely should resign.”
In addition, David Ray – who is currently the spokesperson for the Republican Party of Arkansas put out a strongly worded statement saying, “Today’s developments regarding Paul Bookout are shocking, alarming, and greatly disappointing. This represents a very serious breach of the public’s trust. It is sad that this type of behavior is all too common among Arkansas Democrats, who have controlled the state for the last 130 years. We hope that our state’s leaders and the justice system will hold Senator Bookout accountable, just as they have in the cases of Martha Shoffner and Hudson Hallum.”
Also, Republican Sen. Johnny Key called me back.
“I was certainly disappointed in the findings today,” said Key who went on to say that “the next step is for a prosecutor to determine if there is a criminal case.” But he stopped short of asking him to resign, saying “that should be determined by if he can continue performing his duties. Sen. Bookout will have to determine that along with his constituents. It is a process he will have to go through himself.”