A Fish Story


Arkansas is an angler’s paradise, as Sarah Campbell-Miller’s It's All About the Bass Fishing in Arkansas makes clear, so it would come as no surprise if the state land commissioner wanted to take advantage of our lakes and rivers swimming with fish.

But that is not why he spent nearly $27,000 of taxpayers’ money in late 2014 on a War Eagle hunting and fishing boat and accessories, as well as $1,500-$1,800 annually for storage, says Commissioner of State Lands John Thurston.

No, says Thurston, the boat was needed because it’s the land commissioner’s duty to oversee navigable waterways and submerged land and the Legislature in 2013 gave the land commissioner authority to take legal action to remove debris from navigable waterways.

Yes, the land commissioner has traditionally relied on boats supplied by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, but Thurston didn’t want to have to wait on the agency to provide one when complaints were made, so the expenditure seemed reasonable to him.

Thurston’s office says the boat has been used six times since its purchase. By our calculation, after storage expenses are figured in, that’s more than $5,000 per outing. Surely someone would rent him a boat for a fraction as much.

Thurston, a Republican who’s hit his two-term limit as land commissioner, is now seeking election as the Arkansas secretary of state. Unsurprisingly, his Democratic challenger, Susan Inman, has criticized Thurston’s boat purchase, first brought to light by the liberal Blue Hog Report, as unnecessary. Thurston has countered by calling the criticism “D.C. politics,” though we can’t see where Washington enters into it. Unless ...

Unless “D.C. politics” is understood to mean a cavalier attitude toward other people’s money. Taxpayers’ money. Your money. In that sense, then, it’s Thurston who’s playing D.C. politics in Arkansas by not considering whether his boat buy was the wisest use of your money.