One of the hallmarks of New Republicanism, the thing that Donald Trump so expertly latched onto, is an insistence on lying about everything, all the time, even in situations where the lies can easily be disproven or aren't even advantageous to begin with.
The latest example comes to us from Arkansas, where the Arkansas Times has been covering the mysterious case of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' new $19,000 custom-ordered podium. That is not a typo: Last June, Sanders' office evidently decided that she, of all people, could not possibly post up for one of her trademark lie-a-thons at a merely expensive-as-hell $3,000 or $5,000 luxury podium. Instead, she needed a new custom-built, state-of-the-art (?) version, complete with custom travel case, that costs much, much more.
Last month the public found out about that via an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act public records request, known as a FOIA, and all hell broke loose as Sanders' office tried to explain how and why they spent nearly $20,000 on a single damn podium, with the story getting sketchier and sketchier as time went on.
Sanders' spokeswoman called the purchase of the podium with a state credit card an "accounting error," with the state eventually being reimbursed by the real purchasers, the Republican Party of Arkansas. Oh, and the Republican Party of Arkansas would be letting other officials use the podium too, not just the governor of Arkansas.
Now, at this point your own personal sus-o-meters are probably blaring because it is not at all clear how a mysterious somebody inside Sanders' office, somebody with the authority to spend nearly $20,000 on an "Office of the Governor of Arkansas" credit card on a single online transaction, could get themselves confused as to whether they were doing official government business or were acting as gofer for the state Republican Party.
The Arkansas Times even reports that the "government credit card limit had to be raised" in order to make the purchase happen. That it apparently took the public discovery of the purchase for the state Republican Party to issue the reimbursement months later is another oddity.
And, of course, there's a big question as to how this high-end podium, which is the same model used by the Office of the President of the United States, could cost nearly $20,000 when the actual sales price appears to be only one-fourth of that.
Oh, and the order wasn't placed with the podium's manufacturer, but with the private event management company run by Virginia Beckett, a Sanders campaign worker whose other company was involved in organizing the Jan. 6, 2021 Trump rally in which Trump urged his followers to march to the Capitol to obstruct the counting of electoral votes that would confirm his election loss.
Now for the biggest news of all, and this is a humdinger: Again through the Arkansas Times, we learn that an anonymous former state employee has come forward with alleged proof that Sanders' office "doctored documents and unlawfully held financial records" in attempting to obstruct the FOIA request that led to exposure of this event. Attorney Tom Mars says his whistleblowing client is willing to provide that evidence to legislative auditors.
These documents will substantiate my client’s firsthand knowledge of how certain persons in the Governor’s Office, including the Governor’s Communications Director, interfered with the production of non-exempt FOIA documents [state administrative department] TSS intended to produce to attorney Matt Campbell, to wit:
a) by altering a non-exempt document to give it a different meaning and directing TSS not to produce the unaltered original document to Mr. Campbell;
b) by withholding other non-exempt documents, including documents reflecting some of the Governor’s Amazon purchases;
c) by removing portions of non-exempt e-mail threads; and
d) by directing the TSS lawyer who was responsible for responding to the FOIA requests to deliver a “flash drive” to the Governor’s Office with TSS’s proposed responses and thereafter returning the sanitized version to TSS on a “flash drive” – all for the purpose of concealing that the Governor’s Office had altered an invoice from Beckett Events
LLC and deliberately omitted from the production of responsive documents a number of documents that were not even arguably exempt from the FOIA or subject to any legal privilege.
"Altering" a public record would appear to be a crime. Altering an invoice and hiding documents in an attempt to conceal a peculiar $20,000 payment to a campaign ally begins to make this all sound like it's not the only crime to be found here.
This really is almost the epitome of a Trumpian Republican scandal. There's a weird-ass purchase made on the taxpayers' dime; much bluster and confusion later about who actually did the buying and what it was for; an insistence on supposed luxury expressed in the strangest of places; and crudely forged documents that pop up afterward, making the whole thing worse.
But of course, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was the spokesperson for the Trump White House before she parlayed that into a governorship. Of course she's familiar with the ins and outs of scandals like these; it was her job to stand up in front of a White House podium and come up with the best deflections for them. At this point she's probably pretty sure that "mired in constant petty scandal while pushing for more child labor" is how government is supposed to work.
A $20,000 purchase made through a campaign ally to deliver a $5,000 product that was actually bought on behalf of the Republican Party, not the state government, and which resulted in "certain persons" tampering with state records to cover it all up, huh. Goody. Can't wait to hear more about this one.
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