by Gwen Moritz
Posted 1/6/2014 12:00 am
Updated 11 months ago
I first introduced the Moritz Scale of Political Bad Behavior in 2009 as a handy way to bring some kind of context to political faux pas, which all start to assume cataclysmic proportions — especially on cable TV news and most especially in the news slump that surrounds the holidays. The color-coded scale was modeled after the Homeland Security Advisory System, which was subsequently discontinued, but I still like it.
The Moritz Scale, as you can see, ranks bad behavior by political figures on a scale of 1 (behavior that “just looks bad”) to 5 (criminally bad behavior). The first politicians measured and found wanting were former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who got 4.5 on the Moritz scale because his extramarital affair with his Argentinian “soul mate” was hypocritical, tacky, reckless and stupid although not quite criminal, and Ernie Passailaigue, the slick South Carolinian who rated a 2 for using the startup of Arkansas’ lottery to steer exorbitant salaries to a posse of his home state cronies.
I again pulled out the Moritz Scale in 2011, at which time I raised Passailague’s score to a 4, even though he had already hightailed it out of Arkansas. It seems he and his right-hand man had both spent a quarter of their employment time back home in South Carolina. (In 2013 we would learn that another Palmetto State legacy, Remmele Mazyck, had exploited the lottery ticket security system that he helped set up in order to steal winning tickets. That’s clearly criminally bad behavior — Mazyck is scheduled to report to federal prison this week — but he wasn’t really a politician, so I won’t rate him on the Moritz Scale.)
The last time I used the Moritz Scale in print was in November 2012, when sex scandals were on the menu. David Petraeus, the celebrated Army general who resigned suddenly as director of the CIA, and state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson each got a 4 for affairs (prima facie bad behavior) that were compounded by recklessness and stupidity.
I don’t want to overuse the Moritz Scale, but I probably should have pulled it out for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who scuttled his 2016 gubernatorial dreams a year ago by admitting some kind of inappropriate relationship with Hot Springs attorney Andrea Davis. The public details of McDaniel’s fling weren’t as sordid as Hutchinson’s, but it was still stupid and reckless behavior for a man in his position, so he rates a 4 as well.
Former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner backed out of her guilty plea, so she hasn’t been convicted of criminal behavior. But what she has admitted — taking payoffs from a state vendor in a pie box — is a 5, criminally bad behavior, period.
Former state Rep. Hudson Hallum admitted that his voter fraud (abetted by his own father — or maybe it was the other way around) was criminally bad.
On Twitter I said that former state Sen. Paul Bookout’s use of campaign money for personal purposes surely sounded like a 5 on the Moritz Scale. Months later, in mid-December, I tweeted that Lt. Gov. Mark Darr rated a 4, but I predicted that it might creep higher, and it has. I do find a little bit of daylight between what Bookout did — blatantly using money given to his unopposed election campaign for personal items like clothes and a home theater system — and what Darr did. Darr’s misuse of state funds and campaign funds may not have been knowingly, willfully and intentionally criminal, but his threat to abuse the State Police because he wasn’t allowed to charge his commuting expenses to the taxpayers brings his current score to 4.9.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.