17 Days in August (Opinion)

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 57 views 

There is nothing new about stupidity in politics.

Perhaps it is that elected officials feel they have earned the right to act that way.

Just as our presses began whirling for this issue, the other shoe dropped on the short-lived U.S. Congressional campaign of former Springdale resident Mark Darr.

In a four-sentence statement issued August 29, Darr, who turned 40 in July, ended his campaign, saying he needed to focus more on his family.

“Sometimes trying to achieve titles gets in the way of that,” he wrote.

Family reasons notwithstanding, recent events made Darr’s exit inevitable. On August 12, he announced he would move to his hometown of Mena to fulfill the residential requirement of running for the Republican nomination to represent the 4th Congressional District.

But before the campaign could gather any steam, a left-leaning Arkansas political blogger named Matt Campbell reported a number of questionable expenditures filed on Darr’s campaign finance reports.

Darr, in his first run for public office of any kind, was narrowly elected the state’s lieutenant governor in November 2010.

After taking office, thousands of campaign dollars were spent in 2011 at gas stations, restaurants, men’s clothing stores, all rationalized by Darr as “supplies” or “fundraisers.”

Darr also charged $1,500 worth of Arkansas Razorback football tickets to the campaign, listed as a “fundraiser.”

At best, that is the act of a nincompoop. Filing a public document that says you purchased $119.62 worth of “supplies” from Walker Brothers — Fayetteville’s noted high-end men’s clothing store — is a tough sell.

It’s fine to raise funds to retire the campaign debt Darr was rightfully owed. Charging personal expenses to the campaign? Not fine. Not to mention he raised several thousand dollars more than he loaned himself.

Campbell, an attorney in Little Rock, filed an ethics complaint against Darr, who admitted to “some errors” and also filed a complaint against himself.