Ethics Case Threatens Mark Darr's Future (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 7:41 am  

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr

"In a dream world, I'd love to run against Ross in '12 and beat him and run against McDaniel in '14 and beat him," Darr said in June 2011, referring to then-U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. "Just beat them both, knock them both out."

That willingness to poke at political enemies also prompted Darr to sign into law a bill making secret the state's concealed-carry list. Darr signed the measure while Gov. Mike Beebe was out of state, enacting a measure the Democratic governor said he planned to allow to take effect without his signature.

"Having been an outspoken advocate for Second Amendment rights, I felt passionately that there should be no delays in signing this bill into law," Darr said in February.

Beebe later complained to reporters that the lieutenant governor's decision was inappropriate.

"I always thought we had a pretty decent relationship," Beebe said. "Obviously, I'll be much more careful. You can't turn your back now."

Questions about Darr's campaign and office spending undermine Republicans, who had hoped to paint Democrats as ethically challenged following the resignations of state Treasurer Martha Shoffner and state Sen. Paul Bookout. Shoffner stepped down after she was arrested and charged with steering state investments to a broker who gave her cash, and Bookout resigned after the state Ethics Commission said he spent thousands from his campaign on personal items.

Darr's problems also add an ironic twist to his main policy accomplishment as lieutenant governor. The audit and ethics investigation followed reporting by Matt Campbell, a lawyer who operates a Democrat-leaning blog. Campbell had used the state's open records law to mine Darr's spending records.

They're the same type of records that Darr, who successfully pushed for an "online checkbook" to track state spending, had argued Arkansans should have easy access to.

"I believe the people of Arkansas will overwhelmingly want to know where their money is being spent," Darr said in 2010.

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