Money owed by the Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) shot up from about $80,000 in July to $139,000 in August, a one-month increase in debts and obligations of roughly 75 percent, according to new filings available from the Federal Election Commission.
The DPA was already facing heat after a state-based Democratic blogger took the party to task for its debts in an August post called “Deficits Galore,” as well as numerous other office and bookkeeping issues like fines, reporting errors, and personnel issues.
Not long after, party chairman Michael John Gray placed blame for the financial woes mainly on the rightward shift in the state over the last two decades and announced to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette an Aug. 17 meeting intended to address some of the problems and allegations of misconduct.
Republicans have held the so-called trifecta in the state—a Republican governor and GOP majorities in both the house and the senate—since 2015, according to Ballotpedia.org.
The FEC filings show the Democratic Party’s outstanding debts or obligations such as:
—$6,300 to a fine art company
—$3,700 for lawn care
—$8,400 to the Pulaski County treasurer, where the party headquarters are located.
The lawn care expenses are notable because images of the party headquarters building in Little Rock show a modest building on a modest lot.
Party officials did not divulge details about some of the specific debts.
“As is the case with all federal and state reports, [the FEC reports] represent only a snapshot in time,” Reed Brewer, communications director for the state party told the Washington Free Beacon by email. “If we have an obligation or debt of over $500, the Federal Election Commission requires it must be reported regardless of when the obligation is due. A simple and basic review would conclude that our current report correlates to our calendar of yearly events, as we just concluded our largest annual party gathering.”
The August filing for the Republican Party of Arkansas, meanwhile, showed that committee is debt-free, and the Democrat Gazette reported that has generally been the case over the last decade.
“The [DPA’s] spending and problems with the quarterly reports laid out [in the post] are far from the only issues one can discover from even a cursory glance at the documents,” attorney and blogger Matt Campbell wrote in the post that set the scrutiny in motion.
“There are myriad payments that make little sense. There are questionable unitemized contribution/expenditure totals that are well outside the norm. A deeper dive into those reports (and the finances generally) is certainly warranted, even if the forms used for reporting make piecing a full picture together nearly impossible.”
Todd Shepherd is a staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon. He began his reporting career in radio, working as an anchor and reporter for KOMA in Oklahoma City and KOA in Denver. He spent eight years as the investigative reporter for the Independence Institute in Colorado, a free-market-based think tank. Campaigns and Elections magazine named him a “Top Colorado Influencer” for his reporting and news blog. He’s a graduate of the media studies program from Oklahoma Baptist University.