Politico features something that won’t surprise old students of Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who relocated to a beachfront mansion in income-tax -free Florida to cash in his celebrity in the media world. The former man of the cloth loves to live in high style, particularly when somebody else is paying (remember the Mansion expense account scandal?)
As a presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee made a name for himself as the regular Joe on the debate stage, a threadbare underdog who couldn’t afford his opponents’ Madison Avenue-style commercials, plush hotels and chartered planes. In his campaign memoir, Huckabee proclaimed that he “kept in touch” with ordinary people while eating food-court fare and waiting for long-delayed commercial flights as “other candidates were stepping onto their Gulfstream jets.”
These days, the former Arkansas governor is living — and flying — far more comfortably.
Now a Fox News commentator and highly paid public speaker, Huckabee has in just a few years racked up at least $253,000 in private air travel bills on the way to political events, according to a POLITICO review of federal and state campaign finance records.
The cartoon developed for the article is sharp. And it is easily reusable by opponents should the Huckster get into the 2016 presidential race, as at least one person quoted in the article thinks he might.
Political candidates pay big dollars to have Huckabee grace their campaigns. He’s a busy man, his staff explains. Too busy for commercial flights. Note that campaign spokesman is Sylvester Smith, who also works out as lobbyist for the chamber of commerce/Republican front group known as the National Federation of Independent Business. In spare time, Sylvester Smith can also be found busily promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson. You could consider that a little payback for Democrat Mike Ross’ defeat of Smith’s mama, Judy Smith, in a congressional race some years ago. Judy Smith found work in state government after her defeat with Huckabee’s help.
Intriguing, too, was this footnote from Politico:
Campaigns and political committees have paid the cost of Huckabee’s travel by cutting checks to one of two private companies linked to the politician-turned-TV-commentator: Blue Diamond Travel, a business registered at Huckabee’s Florida address, or the now-defunct MDH Group, an Arkansas entity named for the former governor’s initials.
On 14 occasions, Huckabee’s political action committee has also directly paid for private air travel expenses, reporting $30,000 in disbursements to MDH Group for charter travel to “PAC events” and a dozen additional outlays to chartered air travel companies.
The article doesn’t examine whether these billing arrangements provided profit as well as private jet travel for the Huckster.
Long-time Huckster watchers will remember one of his first state Ethics Commission dustups was over renting his own private airplane to himself for a political campaign. And passing out other campaign checks to related parties. Politico summarized it in a roundup of his checkered ethical record:
The ethics commission fined Huckabee $1,000 for failing to report that he paid himself $14,000 from his 1992 U.S. Senate campaign and $43,000 from his 1994 lieutenant governor’s campaign.
The latter payment — for the use of his eight-seat, twin-engine plane — was reported in a cryptic way that didn’t identify Huckabee and his wife as the owners of the plane.