Last week CONDUIT NEWS with Paul Harrell broke the story of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s law firm representing Chinese companies that have been receiving Arkansas taxpayer money in the form of economic incentives. This includes the fact that the Governor’s son, Asa Hutchinson III, who is the managing partner of the their law firm, was in China with his father attending meetings along with the official Arkansas delegation led by his father.
This raised the question whether the Governor is self-dealing, using state incentives to bolster the assets of his law firm and to financially benefit his son.
The Governor met with the press via video. At the end of his long report the Governor was asked about his son’s presence in the meetings. He made these points/deflections:
- Asa III came at his own expense (Does that mean the Asa Hutchinson Law Group or perhaps Chinese clients?)
- Asa III came to support projects that are important to his client (The Chinese?)
- It is not unusual for Arkansans from the private sector to attend such meetings at their own expense. Then he named some Arkansas business people on the trip. (Wonder how well that went over with them?)
See official video press conference here. The question and response begins at the 15:43 mark.
Yippee! Arkansas taxpayers didn’t have to pay for the travel expenses of Asa III . BUT travel expenses have never been the issue. The issue concerns use of the Governor’s office to make money for himself or his family using government handouts over which the Governor has control.
Governor Hutchinson used the presence of other “private sector” Arkansans to explain away his son being in the Chinese meetings. The presence of other private sector Arkansans does NOT negate concerns over whether the Governor is trying to benefit himself, his son, or both. Instead his mention of others being there raises more questions.
If the state of Arkansas did not put out a “y’all come” invitation to all Arkansans wanting to do business with China, how did those private sector Arkansans manage to get on the invitation list to attend the meetings, including a function at the residence of the American Ambassador?
Were some invited by the Chinese, as their Arkansas representatives, and some invited by the Governor or his staff? If the Governor’s administration was inviting insiders, is that institutionalized cronyism?
But lets get back to the main point. The Governor’s law firm is representing Chinese clients and those clients have received state handouts.
Don’t be distracted from focusing on whether Governor Hutchinson or his family is benefiting from his official position. Several questions come to mind.
- Is the Governor receiving income from his law firm?
- If he is not taking income at this time, are profits from representing the Chinese, being accumulated as assets of the firm to be available for the Governor to tap in the future?
- Isn’t one of the benefits to the Governor the increased status of the the law firm, which may benefit him when he leaves public office and resumes his law practice?
- Assuming the Governor has no present or future stake in the law firm, is this another Joe Biden/Hunter Biden situation where an officeholder uses his position to benefit his son?
BONUS QUESTION: The Asa Hutchinson Law Group opened an office in Madrid last month, can we expect Arkansas economic development dollars to be directed to Spain soon?
Arkansas has a long-standing pattern of self-dealing by officeholders. Arkansas must be vigilant remembering the worst of the examples of greed among Arkansas officeholders have resulted in several recent criminal convictions, including guilty pleas by the Governor’s nephew, Senator Jeremy Hutchinson. The Governor’s other Senator nephew, Senator Jim Hendren, declared earlier this year “let us begin this session of the General Assembly today with a determination that the culture of greed and corruption is over,” and then he promptly cosponsored greedy legislation allowing an officeholder to divert campaign funds to personal use as long as the officeholder claims the expense is for “officeholder activities.” Arkansas has a political system that is broken. Broken from greed.
The Governor stumbled though his response about the presence of his son in Chinese meetings. Next will come the real questions concerning whether he has used his office to benefit family.