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The Lectern: A Halloween Tale (Editorial)

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It’s October, the spooky season, and an improbable ghost haunts Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders: a $19,000 lectern.

For Arkansans who’ve been living in a cave, the story is, briefly, this: Arkansas blogger Matt Campbell, making deft use of the state’s vital Freedom of Information Act, on Sept. 11 posted online that the governor’s office had paid $19,029.25 to an out-of-state events management company owned by a Republican operative for a lectern, which seemed a high price. Three days later, the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state for the cost of the lectern.

Late last month, an anonymous whistleblower claimed Sanders’ office had altered public records related to the purchase. On Oct. 13, the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee authorized Arkansas Legislative Audit to conduct an expedited review of the lectern’s purchase.

Meanwhile, it’s become a national story, with The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post and, yes, even People Magazine reporting on the controversy.

Last week, Sanders, asked at a news conference about the lectern, chided the media, saying, “while we are focused on things that actually impact our state and impact Arkansans, the media wants to spend all of their time focused on things that, frankly, don’t.”

Here’s the problem: How taxpayer money is spent is exactly what the media should focus on, and reimbursement after questions are raised doesn’t solve the problem. And now a legislative audit will spend even more taxpayer money getting to the bottom of the governor’s purchasing habits.

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