Beebe says Darr should resign

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday that Lt. Gov. Mark Darr should resign over violations of state campaign finance and disclosure laws for which Darr was fined $11,000 by the state Ethics Commission.

“I think it’s in everybody’s best interest, including Mr. Darr, if he resign,” Beebe told reporters a day after Darr accepted a settlement with the Ethics Commission requiring him to pay fines for 11 separate violations.

Asked if he believed Darr should be impeached, Beebe said, “That’s up to the Legislature.”

Darr issued a statement Tuesday containing no indication that he planned to resign.

“The mistakes I made have been well-documented. My focus now is on making things right with the people of Arkansas,” Darr said in the statement.

Darr, a Republican, has not said whether he will seek re-election.

Earlier in 2013, Democrat Paul Bookout resigned from the state Senate after being fined $8,000 for converting campaign money to personal use. Also, Democrat Martha Shoffner resigned as state treasurer in 2013 after being indicted on federal extortion and bribery charges.

“The facts speak for themselves,” the Democratic governor said Tuesday. “I mean, what did the others do? They resigned. Other people that were, to varying degrees, similarly situated.”

Beebe said he had spoken with Darr and asked him if he planned to resign, and Darr told him he did not.

“I said something to the effect of, ‘Well that’s disappointing,’” Beebe said.

In investigating a complaint filed against Darr by liberal blogger Matt Campbell, the Ethics Commission found evidence that the lieutenant governor improperly spent more than $44,000 in campaign contributions and office funds. The expenditures included improper travel reimbursements and personal expenditures made with campaign contributions.

The commission also found evidence that Darr had accepted campaign contributions that exceeded individual limits. It cleared Darr of complaints that he had misused a state-issued credit card and committed perjury.

In a letter to the commission, Darr said Monday, “I don’t wish to minimize the seriousness of the mistakes I have made in campaign record-keeping and campaign disclosure. However, I think it is fair to distinguish between these mistakes and intentionally taking money that was not mine. I do not believe I ever intentionally took money that was not owed to me.”

Beebe expressed skepticism Tuesday when asked about Darr’s claim that the violations were not intentional.

“We all make mistakes,” he said. “I guess it becomes a matter of degree. If you mess up once or twice, or you inadvertently do something that’s explainable, that’s one thing. If it’s a pattern that’s longstanding or widespread, then it becomes a question of, is it a mistake or not? And apparently that’s what you’ve got to decide in this case.”

Asked if he believed it should be standard for elected officials to resign over findings of ethics violations, Beebe said, “I don’t know that there is a standard. I think you take each one on a case-by-case basis.

“But I think the volume, the sheer volume, and the amount of the fine and the precedent with others similarly situated lend themselves to that,” he said. “But I mean, you know, that’s his choice. It’s nothing I can make him do.”