We’d applaud Robert Steinbuch even if all that his commentary in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette did was cause us to look up the word “emesis” (vomiting).
But Steinbuch, a professor at the Bowen Law School and co-author of “The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act,” did much more last week: He perfectly expressed our outrage at Arkansas State University’s effort to hide how public money is spent.
This is an Opinion
The Democrat-Gazette, to its credit, has been trying to get records from ASU’s Red Wolves Foundation and the Razorback Foundation, the nonprofit booster clubs that support the schools’ athletics programs. In ASU’s case, the newspaper is seeking insight into a controversy over a contract to install TVs and speakers in ASU’s football stadium, undergoing a $29 million expansion.
In the University of Arkansas’ case, the paper’s effort began when it sought to shed light on the firing and replacement of Athletic Director Jeff Long and coach Bret Bielema. It’s since evolved into a much broader goal: determining whether the Razorback Foundation “is the ‘functional equivalent’ of the athletic department, one test for whether its records should be subject to the state’s open-records law.” That issue remains murky, because the Razorback Foundation says it doesn’t receive public money and UA athletics is self-sustaining.
It’s different at ASU. The Red Wolves chief is paid $85,000 by the state, the foundation’s offices are on state property but it pays no rent, and the foundation has no lease agreement to use what is publicly owned space. All of which was noted by Steinbuch, who added: “Yet the university and the foundation (well, same thing, really) claim that the FOIA doesn’t apply to foundation activities.
“They’re wrong. The foundation under these circumstances doesn’t only walk like a duck, it’s waddling around with a DNA test stapled to its head confirming it’s a duck.”
We couldn’t have said it better.