"Huck's Gift-Givers Ended Up In State Posts"
By Kenneth P. Vogel
December 14, 2007
"Mike Huckabee accepted more than 90 gifts from 21 Arkansans he appointed to state posts during his decade as governor, a Politico analysis of state public records found.
"Since setting his sights on the White House, those supporters, their families and their companies have kept on giving. They contributed nearly $161,000 to a pre-presidential campaign account and Huckabee's official campaign committee since late last year, according to state and federal campaign finance records." ...
"In one year, the value of the gifts given to Huckabee amounted to more than $112,000 – nearly double his $67,000 state salary. And he wrangled with the state Ethics Commission over gift rules, with the commission twice finding he’d broken them (one violation was later overturned).
"Huckabee twice sued the commission, once seeking a statute of limitations on ethics complaints and in another suit he sought to narrow the scope of prohibited gifts. Ironically, he was represented before the ethics commission by Crass and one other lawyer who donated their services – as gifts.
"Huckabee later named one of the attorneys, Tom Mars, to head the Arkansas State Police."
"Huckabee is an avid hunter and fisherman, and his appointees to the state’s influential Game and Fish Commission provide a window into the layered relationship he had with supporters. At least four Huckabee appointees to the seven-member commission had given the governor gifts and are now counted among his presidential donors.
"Ronald Pierce is one of Huckabee’s longtime fishing buddies and the owner of a bass boat manufacturer. From 1997 to 2000, Pierce loaned Huckabee a pair of boats that today would retail for about $40,000 each. He also gave Huckabee and his wife, Janet, jackets and rain suits.
"Huckabee named one of the loaner boats 'State Business' because, he once joshed, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it allowed his secretary to tell callers 'He’s out on State Business' when he was on fishing trips.
"After Huckabee’s gifts drew some bad press, Huckabee became concerned that 'it would kind of look bad' if Pierce loaned him a new boat, Pierce told Politico. So Pierce’s company pulled its loaners and sold the governor a new boat – albeit at a reduced price usually reserved for professional fishermen whose patronage is good marketing. 'The governor driving your boat on the lake is going to help you,' Pierce explained.
"Huckabee last year tapped Pierce for a seat on the Game and Fish Commission and this year Pierce and his wife gave $4,600 to Huckabee’s presidential campaign."
"In all, Huckabee accepted more than $54,000 in clothes for himself and his family during his decade as governor. And the lion’s share – $25,000 – came from Jennings Osborne, a colorful businessman who was by far the most generous gift giver to the Huckabees.
"Osborne, whose website describes him as 'Little Rock's own version of Elvis' gave Huckabee, his family and staff more than $60,000 worth of gifts, including $11,000 in flowers, nearly $12,000 worth of pastries and more than $25,000 in clothes.
"Huckabee appointed Osborne to a seat on the commission that oversees the stadium where the University of Arkansas football team plays some home games, and Osborne and his wife contributed $4,100 to Huckabee’s presidential campaign."
"Huckabee also gave appointments to givers of less extravagant gifts who have yet to appear in his campaign donation reports.
"He accepted a barbecue grill from a resort owned by the family of a man he appointed to the state’s State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission.
"He accepted as gifts seemingly common services, including car repairs. He reported receiving free eye care and 'eye wear' from an optometrist and an ophthalmologist – both of whom he tapped for spots on the boards overseeing their respective professions.
"In 1996, when the governor’s mansion was being refurbished, Huckabee received free 'general contracting and interior design services' from designer Georg Anderson and furnishings from cotton magnate Charles Adams. The next year, Huckabee named Anderson, as well as Adams’ wife, Myrna Vine Adams, to the Arkansas Governor's Mansion Commission.
"When Adam's furniture gift, worth more than $70,000, was first revealed, Huckabee claimed it was his family’s to keep. He backed down after a lawsuit was filed over the furniture and his family’s use of a $60,000-a-year fund, which the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported had been used to pay for pizza, a doghouse, a magazine subscription and pantyhose for Janet Huckabee.
"The suit was settled with the furniture still in the mansion and Huckabee, while admitting no wrongdoing, acknowledging a dispute 'regarding reimbursements.'"
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