Our View

Our View

Arkansas senator caught in campaign scandal just par for the course

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive,” the notable quotation by Sr.

Walter Scott, which means that when you tell lies or act in a dishonest way you create problems and complications which you cannot control.

This political house of cards in Little Rock has fallen apart with top ranking veteran politician and nephew to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, resigning on the heels of being indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts of wire and tax fraud. Hutchinson is being accused of misspending campaign donations and underreporting his income on federal tax forms.

For anyone following Arkansas politics lately knows that Hutchinson, 44, is the sixth current or former Arkansas lawmaker since last year to face federal charges. Five ex-lawmakers have pleaded guilty to charges or being convicted in public corruption investigations spanning Arkansas and Missouri.

It comes as no real surprise that Hutchinson would be indicted in light of the fact that he had been previously linked in court documents, though not by name, to a bribery probe involving a Missouri-based nonprofit health care provider and Arkansas lobbyist Rusty Cranford.

Cranford has already pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Hutchinson, or “Senator A,” according to court documents. Earlier this year, Hutchinson’s name surfaced in connection to a federal investigation.

To show just how serious this situation is, let us point out that the wire-fraud counts, which each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, involve accusations about how Hutchinson handled $9,790 in campaign contributions between 2013 and 2015. Let us point out that sum is part of accusations, but not formal charges, that the senator improperly used more than $200,000 in campaign money.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the tax-fraud charges, carrying a maximum penalty of three years in prison, and involve accusations that he under-reported on his tax returns the income he received for 2011 through 2014, including fees “purportedly for providing legal or consulting services.

We’ve been told Hutchinson received $500,000 from 2012 to 2017 from Cranford, Preferred Family Healthcare, Cranford lobbying firms and other Cranford clients, the government alleged, as payments for supposed legal work.

It is certainly alarming that there are at least five other former state politicians who have pleaded guilty or been convicted of federal charges but here we have the governor’s nephew who has served for more than 15 years in political office, not only as a lawmaker but as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as former assistant president pro tempore of the State Senate. He is, beyond a doubt, the highest-profile member of the current Republican-led Legislature to be involved in this federal criminal proceedings.

At this point, and with the political corruption being what it is, it is no wonder the reputation of politicians is what it is today.

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