Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Uncovering Huck's past

An ancillary benefit of having a local boy run for president is that we learn a lot about our undiscovered past. When the favorite son gets into the upper ranks of candidates, nosey reporters come digging and disaffected friends and aides start talking.

The virtual collapse of the whole top tier of Republican presidential candidates and Mike Huckabee’s surge into the lead triggered a couple of revelations this week that might have remained secret forever.

They reflect on the development of policies in the Huckabee administration that people should have known. You may not remember Action America but you probably recall the huge nursing-home bed tax that Gov. Huckabee signed into law in 2001.

If you have a loved one who is a private-pay nursing home resident you have special reason to remember it — every month.
In a mammoth and highly favorable cover story in this week’s Newsweek, a couple of Republican confidantes and advisers to the former governor talk about the founding of Action America in Texas in 1994, soon after Huckabee was elected lieutenant governor. J. J. Vigneault and Greg Graves, political consultants to Huckabee, said he needed money and they helped him set up a political fund that was supposed to support his political activity.

It was set up in Texas, they said, so people in Arkansas wouldn’t know about it. They raised $119,916 — most of it from a single source, R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant. Word got out in Arkansas anyway and Little Rock newspapers pressed Huckabee for details but never got any.

In the Newsweek article, Huckabee said he spent the money lawfully and that he did not know who the donors were.

Specifically, he was unaware of the cigarette money and disputed Vigneault’s account that he met with Reynolds people at his Little Rock apartment to work out the arrangement.

Huckabee, according to Vigneault, even asked the Reynolds agent to step outside to smoke. Huckabee said he would have to see a photo of himself and the Reynolds people to convince him that the meeting ever took place. Why is that important? In the succeeding years, Huckabee stopped a Board of Health regulation banning smoking in restaurants (years later the legislature passed a law banning it and Huckabee signed it).

In 2001, the governor asked the legislature to raise taxes to prop up the troubled Medicaid program and it sent him two bills to choose between — a tax on nursing home patients and a cigarette tax increase. He vetoed the cigarette tax and signed the nursing home tax. Surely it was no quid pro quo!

Then there was the dispute all over the national media last week about Huckabee’s role in the release of the rapist Wayne DuMond, who went on to rape and kill one and maybe two women in a little Missouri town. Huckabee said he had nothing to do with it — opposed the man’s release, he said — but state parole board members and his own aide confirmed that he solicited the board’s favor for DuMond’s release.

Anyway, he said, there was no way any official could have imagined that DuMond would rape and kill if he were released.
He disputed an Internet journal’s report that there were letters in his file from women who were raped and threatened by DuMond pleading for him not to be paroled.

Yesterday, the Huffington Post posted a batch of letters from rape victims and family members — the names of the women blotted out — recounting their terrible experiences.

The journal said they were in Huckabee’s file on DuMond, supplied by a former aide. There are also police files on a DuMond confession, which he refused to sign. They make horrific reading.

You can read them at www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/12/10/new-documents-revealed-in_n_76186.html.