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'Podiumgate,' 'Lecterngate': No matter what you call it, it's a questionable mess • Arkansas Advocate

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  evilone  •  one month ago  •  5 comments

By:   Sonny Albarado (Arkansas Advocate)

'Podiumgate,' 'Lecterngate': No matter what you call it, it's a questionable mess • Arkansas Advocate
We live in a world where the purchase of a platform for giving speeches deserves close scrutiny from Arkansas voters.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Arkansas governor's purchase of a $19K lectern has critics chomping


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Sonny AlbaradoSeptember 27, 2023 7:00 amSarah-Sanders-Inauguration-Podium-Speech-Flagd-3.jpg

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers her inaugural address on Jan. 10, 2023, at a lectern that looks much like the one her office paid $19,000 for this summer and for which the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed state government. (Karen E. Segrave for Arkansas Advocate)

If we lived in a better world, we'd all be willing to believe the governor's spokesperson when she says the purchase of a $19,000 lectern with a state credit card was an "accounting error."

Of course, we don't live in that world. We live in a world where the purchase of a platform for giving speeches, and the excuses for ignoring state purchasing rules, deserve close scrutiny from Arkansas voters.

This rapidly evolving furor began on social media Sept. 15 when Blue Hog Report blogger and attorney Matt Campbell posted on X (formerly Twitter) that Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders "bought an $18,475 custom podium, w/travel case, just before her European trip." The total cost, according to an invoice from Beckett Events LLC, was $19,029.25, which includes a 3% credit card processing fee of $554.25.

Remember this nearly $20k expenditure to Beckett Events?

Turns out, Sarah Sanders bought an $18,475 custom podium, w/ travel case, just before her European trip.

Even Aaron Schock only spent $5,000 on the pointless lectern that was part of his spending scandal… https://t.co/fHRczik49hpic.twitter.com/C4l7WL6O2Y

— Matt Campbell (@BlueHogReport) September 15, 2023

(For the sticklers among you, I'm going to refer to the podium as a lectern, which is the proper term. However, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website says the nouns are interchangeable in modern usage.)

The European trip refers to an economic development and trade mission Sanders and other officials began on June 14. The governor's children and husband accompanied her on that trip, according to records Campbell revealed in other posts on X. The blogger's public records requests for those documents are widely believed to have triggered Sanders' successful effort in the recent special legislative session to exempt Arkansas State Police records regarding her security from the state Freedom of Information Act.

The receipt for the lectern purchase emerged in the documents Campbell received in response to his FOIA requests.

Whether the trade trip to Europe has any connection to the purchase of a lectern from a Washington-based event design and management firm, Beckett Events, remains to be seen. The company's website doesn't mention that it also sells equipment, and founder Virginia Beckett's LinkedIn profile lists lobbying positions in her background. Other social media posters provided photos linking Sanders to Beckett and another Washington-area consultant, Hannah Stone of Salem Strategies.

What is known is that the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state $19,029.25 for the cost of the lectern with a check dated Sept. 14, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Monday. The check came three months after the credit card payment to Beckett Events.

In a statement to the Democrat-Gazette, Sanders spokesperson Alexa Henning said the lectern isn't "strictly for use by the Governor, it will be used by the RPA for other officials, and it wasn't paid for with taxpayer money."

Not now maybe, since the Republican Party stepped in and reimbursed the state, but a state credit card was used to buy it in the first place. Henning dismissed this as "an accounting error; we realized it and corrected it." It took the governor's staff three months to spot "an accounting error."

Henning dismissed criticisms of the purchase by Campbell and other social media posters as coming from "desperate radical left keyboard warriors [who] want to manufacture a controversy where one does not exist."

Yes, it's easier to dismiss inconvenient facts that come from an opposing political philosophy than deal with the facts themselves.

Campbell on Monday provided a timeline of the evolution of the lectern purchase from May, when a governor's aide asked via email for guidance on recording the purchase, through Aug. 14, the date of the last email the blogger said he'd received in response to FOIA requests.

What becomes clear in Campbell's post, even disregarding his editorial comments, is that the governor's office tried to buy a high-priced lectern without going through normal state purchasing procedures and that at some point, key aides and top officials in the Department of Transformation and Shared Services got involved.

Since Monday, posters on X have kept the controversy alive, questioning whether the lectern even exists and connecting dots that may or may not exist.

On Tuesday, the Democrat-Gazette published a short story with a photo purportedly of the lectern in question. Interestingly, it looks a lot like the lectern the governor used when she gave her inaugural address . Which caused a fresh bubble of skeptical criticism on social media.

But it shouldn't surprise anyone that it appears similar, since the style of lectern, called a Falcon for its sleek silhouette, is fairly common.

You have to wonder where the governor's communications staff learned how to manage controversy.

Of course, if we lived in a better world, the governor's office would have followed state purchasing protocols to buy the lectern in the first place.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website. AP and Getty images may not be republished. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of any other photos and graphics.

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Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years and returned to professional journalism in 2022 to lead the Arkansas Advocate. He is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a current member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, the nation's largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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evilone
Professor Guide
1  seeder  evilone    one month ago
What is known is that the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state $19,029.25 for the cost of the lectern with a check dated Sept. 14, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Monday. The check came three months after the credit card payment to Beckett Events.

Only after a state Republican asked for the audit. The audit also found they needed to expand the credit limit on the card used for the initial purchase which was purchased against state purchasing rules.  Staff shredded the invoice which would be considered destruction of government records. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  evilone @1    one month ago

it all looks legal on paper now, nothing to see here...

freaking hairless sasquatch.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
1.2  Greg Jones  replied to  evilone @1    one month ago

It was purchased for state use and the Republicans even paid for it

No scandal here. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2.1  devangelical  replied to  Greg Jones @1.2    one month ago
the Republicans even paid for it

... after the accounting scandal was discovered and the story broke.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
1.2.2  seeder  evilone  replied to  Greg Jones @1.2    one month ago
It was purchased for state use and the Republicans even paid for it

The Republicans didn't pay for it until another Republican called for an investigation on it's purchase. 

No scandal here. 

I didn't claim it was a scandal. I will claim right now it's unethical and indicative of the right-wing populist entitlement attitude. 

 
 

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