Enough is on the record to let everyone decide how much blame to lay on Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Huthchnson for cheating on property taxes for for four years and then taking corrective steps when it was time to run for governor. His admission of wrongdoing and full repayment of improper tax credits and penalties was a good way to close the chapter, I wrote last night.
I still feel that way. But ….
I see in the Democrat-Gazette this morning that Democrats were asked for comment on Hutchinson’s belated decision to make full repayment. Hutchinson responded that they had “crossed every line of fairness.”
Ross spokesman Brad Howard said Hutchinson ought to play by the same set of rules everyone else follows. Fair. He said Hutchinson had illegally applied for and received two homestead tax credits and only partially paid back what was owed some weeks before running for governor and paid no penalties. Fair. He noted that the actions occurred shortly after Hutchinson moved back to Arkansas from a D.C. lobbying job, where he was a Virginia voter. True. Maybe not relevant. But not unfair. “Maybe that’s how lobbyists do things in Washington, DC, but we expect more integrity from someone running for governor of our state,” Howard said. This is political snark, true, but hardly unfair in that it is simply accurate. Howard might be inaccurate — or overly fair — in saying Arkansans expect integrity of political candidates. (My snark.) Howard also said Ross should be held to a higher standard. Fair. Unless you think political candidates should be held to a lower standard.
Vince Insalaco, the Democratic Party chair, said Hutchinson cheated on taxes, wrongly took a double tax credit, doesn’t deserve special treatment and should be held to a high ethical standard . True, true, true and true. Fair, fair, fair and fair.
If it’s time to move to other, bigger issues (while voters take away from this what they will, it is also time for Asa to quit whining. Yes, I”m sure as Hutchinson told the D-G, they “made my blood boil a little bit.” So what? He could have said: “Criticism is understandable. I made a mistake. I’ve made full repayment.”
A bit of irony in this story: Mike Beebe campaigned for governor in 2006 in part on raising the homestead property tax exemption from $300 to $350. Hutchinson, his vanquished opponent, was lukewarm on the proposal as Democrats remember it. It was an early achievement of Beebe’s in 2007. Weeks after the law’s enactment, Hutchinson improperly claimed the credit on a second home in Pulaski County. The veteran lawyer, who checked, signed and mailed in a form attesting the home was his principal residence — immediately after a campaign in which the issue was discussed — says the application was an accident. It is statements such as these that may be fairly weighed in judging a candidate’s credibility.
Apologies always may be viewed for sincerity in light of accompanying whines directed at a wrongdoer’s critics.