The invaluable Arkansas Democrat-Gazette disclosed on Sept. 23 a problem that we hadn’t been aware was a problem: the practice of state legislators lending each other money.
In the fall of 2016, Joe Jett, chairman of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, lent $16,000 to Jeremy Gillam, then the speaker of the House. Gillam told the paper the loan came after he’d had a stroke and needed help with paying expenses related to his farm. The handshake loan carried no agreed-on interest rate, though Gillam said he hopes to pay some and to have the loan paid off by the end of this year.
This is an Opinion
In January 2017, Gillam reappointed Jet chairman of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee. Both Gillam and Jett say no quid pro quo was involved.
OK. Let’s assume that’s the case. Except …
Except that Gillam failed to disclose the loan, amending his Statement of Financial Interest for 2016 and 2017 only after the Democrat-Gazette asked about the loan. Gillam said he didn’t think state law required disclosure.
OK. Except …
Except that the instructions for filling out the financial interest statement explicitly state that disclosure of debts to people who aren’t family members and aren’t in the business of lending money is required. In addition, disclosure of debts of at least $5,000 is required.
Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Jim Hendren told the paper he suspects that other legislators have lent each other money and disclosed that he lent about $4,000 to then-state Sen. Jake Files.
Although no state law appears to forbid lawmakers from lending money to each other, taxpayers should not have to worry whether legislators have leverage over or obligations to each other that might influence their votes. It’s particularly important in the current climate, one in which five former state lawmakers have been convicted of corruption.