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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Paul Rawlings: Campaign finances and elections

  • Is Darr's selection by Republicans a reflection on their selection method for candidates?
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  • In the Republican primary on May 18, 2010  Republicans of Arkansas selected Mark Darr a licensed insurance agent and co-owner of  The MAD Pizza Company in Rogers  as the best Republican to be Lt Governor of Arkansas  rejecting Republican Donnie Copeland an Apostolic pastor.
     
    In the general election Darr attacked his Democrat opponent, Shane Broadway’s lack of business experience and promised if elected he would establish an “online checkbook” where ordinary citizens could track and understand state spending and promised to defeat Obamacare.
     
    In the general election on November 2, 2010 a majority of Arkansas voters elected Mark Darr their Lt. Governor.
     
    Monday August 9, 2013 with his family by his side at Witcherville Lt. Governor Mark Darr announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional seat.
     
    Thursday August 29, 2013 Darr after “careful thought and deliberation” announced he would not seek the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional seat.
     
    In September 2013 the Signature Bank of Arkansas filed foreclosure against Darr’s home in Rogers.  On September 19 Darr said he had not missed any mortgage payments and on September 20 admitted he had missed 4 mortgage payments and blamed his political enemies for the foreclosure.
     
    On December 19, 2013 Arkansas Ethics Commissioner Graham Sloan sent Darr a 5 page letter detailing the commission’s finding and levying a $11,000.00 fine $1,000.00 for each of the following ethics law violations:
     
    Making personal use of $31,572.74 of his campaign funds.
     
    Accepting three contributions for more than the $2,000.00 limit, adding up to $6,000 above the legal limit.
     
    Accepting $5,720.91in contributions after the November 2 deadline for other purposes than retiring debt.
     
    Failing to maintain sufficient records of all the expenditures during the 2010 debt retirement campaign.
     
    Failing to properly itemize $9,200 in loan repayments, $15,267.29 in itemized expenditures and $3,098.40 in non-itemized expenditures.  He also failed to provide complete addresses for each payee.
     
    Failing to report a $185.61 contribution from Strong Arkansas Political Action Committee.
     
    Failing to list the principal place of business, employer or occupation for all itemized contributors for the debt retirement campaign
     
    Failing to file a third-quarter debt retirement disclosure that shows a loan repayment of $1,500
     
    Making personal use of at least $3,532.60 in expenses charged to a state-issued credit card
     
    Receiving at least $3,577.26 in underserved travel reimbursement.
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    On Monday December 30, 2013 Darr signed a settlement agreement with the Arkansas Ethics Commission agreeing to pay an $11,000.00 fine after the commission found probable cause that he had violated 11 state and campaign and ethics rules.
     
    Surely Republicans will admit in their 2010 Primary they did not select the best Republican in Arkansas as their candidate for Lt. Governor.  However not one Republican has suggested Republicans change their method for selecting candidates in future primary elections.
     
    The 389,690 voters in Arkansas who voted for Mark Darr in the 2010 general election selected a person who was unable or unwilling to legally handle his campaign or personal finances or the taxpayers money.  Will the citizens of Arkansas change the method for selecting office holders  in future elections?
     
    Darr’s business experience at the MAD Pizza Company and as a licensed insurance agent did not prevent him from “mishandling” the money of the taxpayers of Arkansas or “mishandling” the campaign money his supporters gave him for his campaign.
     
    Darr joins State Senator Paul Bookout, a Jonesboro Democrat who reigned in August 2013 for “mishandling” campaign funds, State Representative Hudson Hallum, a Marion Democrat who resigned in Septmber 2013 for “mishandling” campaign funds and Martha Shoffner the Democrat State Treasurer who resigned in May 2013 after accepting “funds” from a person doing business with the State Treasurer’s Office.
     
    Although the Arkansas 6 member congressional delegation, the Governor and  Republican candidates for state offices have called on Darr to resign he had refused to resign at the time this column was written.
     
    Some states have laws providing for publicly funded elections. Darr, Bookout, Hallum and Shoffner’s recent  “misconduct”  make a strong case for Arkansas citizens to consider public funded elections instead of the current system of selecting public officials.
    (Paul Rawlings of Heber Springs contributes each week to the editorial pages of The Sun-Times)

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