A committee helping in the search for a lobbyist for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville to succeed the retiring Richard Hudson has narrowed the list. Republican Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home is among the five finalists, as expected.
The other contenders are Denver Peacock of Little Rock, senior vice president for public affairs at Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods; Randy Massanelli, state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor; Mac Campbell, a former aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln and deputy staff director of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and Allison Rosenberg, a Seattle consultant who’s been a university administrator in Iowa among other past posts.
UPDATE: The university has confirmed my earlier reports on the finalists and added the one name I lacked, that of Rosenberg.
Hudson retires July 31. He’s paid $202,000. Key did not seek re-election this year so that he could seek this job and most politicos believe the job is his for the asking.
Key would have to resign from the Senate to take the job before the end of the year. As a sitting member of the legislature, he’s exempt from a the rule that requires a one-year cooling-off period before becoming a lobbyist. But going to work for a state agency is also effectively an exemption. Many legislators have left to become agency heads and work in jobs in which they must advocate at the legislature for their offices. Key has said he’d avoid registering as a lobbyist by not spending $400 in a quarter on lobbying. Hudson has reported expenditures well in excess of that, but there’s always somebody else with a credit card at a campus where dozens of administrators make in excess of $100,000 a year.
An eight-member search committee was appointed to make recommendations to Chancellor David Gearhart. It is reviewing this month (all five candidates will be interviewed today) and will recommend candidates by April.
I still like Key’s chances. Looking at a Republican majority legislature for blessings after a rough ride through the partisan Auditing Committee in recent months, it’s hard to imagine the UA passing up a chance to install a Republican leader (and one with solid ties to the UA-controlling Walton fortune) as their man on the ground in the Capitol.
PS — Making a mockery of laws intended to discourage a revolving door from the legislature to the lobby — particularly to benefit someone demonstrably beholden to wealthy interests and one who promoted religion in a government-financed pre-school — is not exactly the way to burnish your academic reputation,.