For some time now, the Blue Hog boys have been doing a great job, using skills that neither I nor anyone on my team have, to ferret out corruption in Arkansas politics. Well, the Republican Party, sick of their skeletons being exposed, apparently had enough:
Surely you read the Blue Hog Report. The name says it all — partisan Arkansas Democratic politics. But that’s not what has Republicans upset. It’s the Blue Hog reporting. They blew the whistle this week on Federal Election Commission problems for Doug Matayo, the former Republican legislator and congressional candidate who now is Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin’s chief of staff. They’ve exposed Mark Martin’s slipshod car expense practices. They’ve caused upset for Republican and Democratic legislators alike with writing about blatantly unconstitutional expense reimbursement practices (though some of the Republicans REALLY looked stupid in this.)
OK, so you know the drill. Don’t get mad get even. Of course, it’s better — looks less like a vendetta — if you have evidence to go on. It’s not a given that, just because Campbell and Woodmansee are state employees, that they do political activities on state time. But Republicans expect others to be as corrupt as they are. See Mark Martin’s staff, where employees did lots of workday political tweeting, for example, until I called them on it.
But … it’s absolutely legal for the Republicans to see whether state employees are confining their political activities to their private hours. I think — and hope — Campbell and Woodmansee are smart enough to have done that. We’ll see in due course. If not, let the chips fall.
It is also absolutely legal for Campbell and Woodmansee to engage in political speech in their off-hours. And, unlike, say, Mark Martin’s chief spokesperson, Alice Stewart, they have no duties, even remote, in oversight of elections or other partisan activities where their political activities after hours might appear in conflict with their writing briefs on criminal law or shelving law books.
At the time of writing, BHR is down, for unknown reasons. Hopefully it will be back up soon, and hopefully Matt and Jeff weren’t so stupid as to use state computers for their blogging. I’m betting they weren’t and I hope I’m not wrong. But even if they were, they’re not paid Democratic operatives. That’s not to say they’d be in the right legally, but it would be comparative to the DPA going after Jason Tolbert in a similar situation. Speaking of Jason, he had some harsh words for the Republicans today:
With the controversy swirling, Campbell’s Blue Hog Report has been suspended. I hope this is only temporary. Regardless of my ideological difference with Campbell, Arkansas is a better state by having him as a citizen journalist and a watchdog on our state government. His blogging from the left complimented my blogging from the right created a balance to hold both Republican and Democratic elected officials accountable.
In addition, it is chilling for any citizen journalist exercising their free speech right in the new media forum of the internet for a political party to single out a voice that criticizes them by scrutinizing their employment records. My fear is this will have a ripple effect that will weaken the overall transparency of our state government, which has made strides in the recent years driven by the emerging vibrant state blogosphere.
Gestapo style tactics like this are a threat to freedom of speech and to an open society. This is something you would expect to come out of a place like Libya, not here in the U.S. and the fact that they would sink to this is a pretty clear sign that Matt was onto something at the Secretary of State’s office, probably something big that they didn’t want exposed.
I hope this is sorted out soon and Matt and Jeff come out of it unscathed. We’ve had our differences a couple of times in the past, but they’re part of the progressive Arkansas netroots, and as far as I’m concerned that makes them family. So let me make this loud and clear. You fuck with one of us, you fuck with all of us. The Arkansas Republican Party wants a war, we’ll give them a war. They think we’ve been a thorn in their sides to this point? Well starting tonight, things are going to get really nasty.