About That Cooling-Off Period (Editorial)

Current law requires Arkansas lawmakers to wait just one year before they seek to take advantage of any clout amassed by hiring on to jobs as lobbyists that pay much more money than most of them have ever before seen.

But Gilbert Baker, former state senator, was grandfathered into the ranks, becoming an executive assistant to UCA President Tom Courtway, a lobbying job that paid Baker a handsome $132,000 a year.

Now Baker, his lobbyist epaulets ripped from his uniform and his sword broken in two, is — as of press time — back in the humble ranks of tenured professors at UCA, where, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday, “he had taught years ago.”

Baker got caught up in the multiple investigations of Circuit Judge Michael Maggio. The judge, in addition to being a blabber-mouth with a wretched sense of humor, is under investigation because his campaign took PAC money from a nursing home tycoon. Those political action committees were formed suspiciously close to Maggio’s decision to slash to $1 million a $5.2 million jury award to the family of an elderly woman who died in one of the tycoon’s facilities.

It’s all very sticky and confusing, but Baker has ties to some of the officers of the PACs, or to people listed as officers. The former-senator-now-former-executive-assistant has so far refused to answer many questions about those ties.

At some point, the questions are likely to be answered, one way or another. Baker’s future — along with that of Maggio — hinges on how they’re answered.

Which brings us back to this: That cooling off period is a good idea. Surely a clear conscience, or at least plausible deniability, would have been worth the wait of a year for both Baker and the University of Central Arkansas.