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.
All of the Republican members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation and the chairman of the state Democratic Party also added their voices Tuesday to the chorus calling for Darr to resign.
“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 different violations.
The commission issued a letter of reprimand to Darr on Tuesday and directed him to file corrected campaign finance reports.
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. In August he abandoned a bid for the GOP nomination in the 4th District congressional race amid questions about his spending.
Democrat Paul Bookout resigned from the state Senate in August after the Ethics Commission fined him $8,000 for converting campaign money to personal use. Democrat Martha Shoffner resigned as state treasurer in May following her arrest by the FBI and has since been 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.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, and U.S. Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, called on Darr to resign.
“As elected officials, we are keepers of the public trust. We are bound by a very strict code of conduct that is the basis of that trust. Based on Lt. Gov. Darr’s own admissions, it is clear he has violated that trust, and he should step down immediately for the good of our state,” the five said in a jointly issued statement.
State Democratic Party Chairman Insalaco said in a statement, “Our elected officials must be held accountable and Mark Darr’s record of irresponsibility is entrenched. Arkansans deserve better. Mark Darr should resign immediately.”
State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb declined to call for Darr’s resignation but said the party would do so “if criminal charges are warranted.”
“Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has appropriately admitted to his ethics violations, has apologized to the people of Arkansas, and has begun the process of paying restitution for his mistakes and correcting his campaign finance reports. All these actions have been taken for the purpose of restoring the public’s trust in his service as lieutenant governor,” Webb said.
Asa Hutchinson, widely seen as the GOP front-runner in the 2014 governor’s race, also said Tuesday that Darr should resign if criminal charges are filed.
“Until then, we should let the process work,” Hutchinson said.
Reporters asked Beebe Tuesday if he believed Darr should be impeached. The governor answered, “That’s up to the Legislature.”
Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said Tuesday he did not believe the case rose to the level of impeachment, but he said he had not spoken to enough senators to gauge the level support for the idea. House Speaker Davy Carter did not immediately respond to a message left with a House spokeswoman.
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.
The commission did not make any recommendations to Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, but Jegley has said he may seek funds for grand jury investigations of complaints he has received about Darr and others.
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.”