On the presidential hustings, the biggest tax and spender in Arkansas history has transformed himself into the nation’s chief scourge of taxes and spending, boasting that as governor he cut taxes for the first time in history and in fact had slashed them “94 times.”
Who could have been surprised this week when Huckabee crowed that the attorney general had actually applauded his destruction of state records and equipment when he was leaving the governor’s office in January? What the attorney general had concluded was that it would be pointless to try to prosecute the former governor.
You remember the controversy.
In his last hours as governor, Huckabee ordered the state Department of Information Systems to crush the hard drives of 90 computers in his office and other agencies that housed records relating to his office, including his family’s use of State Police aircraft.
He drained the governor’s emergency fund to pay for the destruction, and the new governor had to buy new computer equipment. Huckabee justified the destruction by saying the computers contained sensitive and private information that had no public value.
The new attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, undertook an investigation, and his report this week said that he found no specific laws requiring the governor to preserve the records or equipment or prohibiting their destruction.
So he did not recommend that criminal charges be filed against anyone in the governor’s office or any civil lawsuits to recover damages from Huckabee.
But the truth is never sufficient for Mike Huckabee. This is what he said:
“Attorney General McDaniel has done something that should have been done by others who tried to create a controversy when there wasn’t one – he conducted a fair and objective review and discovered that we acted not only under the direction of state officials, but in the best interest of the people of Arkansas in our handling of the hard drives.”
Whoa, McDaniel said. That is “overstating it a bit.”
“I don’t think it would be fair for me to suggest that the governor was acting under the direction of state officials,” McDaniel added. “He should be directing them. Moreover, all I have determined was that the actions didn’t warrant criminal prosecution or civil litigation. I don’t presume to suggest that the actions were in the best interest of the people.”
It would be presumptuous indeed for the attorney general – or the former governor – to suggest that the destruction of records of public acts and equipment is routinely in the interest of the people even if it does not warrant prosecuting him.
Huckabee maintained that the computers had material that was “extremely sensitive” and thus needed to be destroyed.
Since the information is gone, McDaniel said, there is no way for his staff to determine whether it was sensitive or not. Since the evidence has been destroyed he had to presume that the destruction was legal.
McDaniel also concluded that Huckabee was within his rights when he toted off the massive drapes in the governor’s office when he left because he counted them as gifts by benefactors to him personally and not to the state.
No one ever said it was illegal, just tacky.