Three weeks too late, Republican Rep. Charlie Collins has announced that his Republican colleague, Rep. Mickey Gates of Hot Springs, should resign from the House and quit the race for re-election because of six pending counts of felony failure to pay state income taxes. Gates, you remember, hasn’t paid state taxes for 15 years and has deadbeat the state on withholding payments, too.
Collins is feeling the heat from Denise Garner, the Democrat challenging his re-election. She’s noted the GOP’s comforting of crooks, including but not limited to Gates. Collins was a major benefactor of the criminal enterprise known as Ecclesia College, whose president schemed to pay kickbacks to legislators who helped him reap hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money for his putative little Bible college. Collins wasn’t accused of being part of the kickback scheme, but he helped shovel the dough to
I wish government ethics was a campaign issue. It should be issue No. 1 — honest and accountable elected officials. Sadly, it hasn’ had a lot of resonance over the years.
Is this year different, thanks to the growing number of indictments of crooks? Maybe so. That Charlie Collins and Asa Hutchinson reconsidered earlier hands-off postures and have called for Gates’ resignation might mean something.
Some things never change, though. Doyle Webb, chair of the Arkansas Republican Party, is backing Gates’ ability to stay in office to the hilt. And should Gates defeat his Democratic challenger in November, I’m sure Webb will back him even more, at least until the GOP can rig up a special election for an unsullied Republican to attempt to hold onto the seat.