I have very strange feelings when it comes to Secretary of State Mark Martin. As a human, I find him to be utterly detestable (and woefully in need of an ass kicking). As an elected official, I find him to be shady and inept and as corrupt as his middling intellect allows. But as a source of blog fodder? He’s like The Giving Tree, and I sort of love him for it. So reliable is Martin in this capacity that I had no doubt I’d be able to find something worth talking about simply by perusing the state online checkbook.
1. The Secretary of State’s Office spent $2,170 (plus $339.57 in travel expenses) to hire a company called THOR Global Defense Group, Inc. Who is Thor Global Defense Group, Inc., you ask? Well, according to their website,
[t]he mission of THOR Global Defense Group is to provide the most advanced weapons and equipment, the latest in techniques and tactics for training and to offer experienced, professional security operations for missions worldwide.
Overall, THOR provides “a variety of services including ocean freight security / protection, site analysis & consulting, remote or on-site training, weapon & equipment supply, protective services, facility construction, systems development, nuclear operations, import/export and delivery.” Obviously most of those don’t (or at least shouldn’t) apply to the Secretary of State’s Office — they don’t need secure ocean freight shipping, they don’t need help in designing a secure facility, they don’t have nuclear operations … you get the idea. So, best guess, Mark Martin brought in THOR either to (a) provide site analysis and consulting for the Capitol grounds or (b) to train the Capitol Police in paramilitary tactics and weapons. Neither of these seems necessary or makes much sense, though I suppose (b) is slightly more likely. But, hey, it’s good to know that the Capitol is safe from attack thanks to the efforts of Mark Martin.
2. At a glance, it appears that the office has spent $6433.63 in travel on conference fees and related expenses. However, digging a bit, there are additional travel costs that, for whatever reason, are listed under Operating Expenses, including $1,615 in Conference & Seminar Fees and $1,555.80 in Lodging, bringing the grand total to $9,604.43.
And what did the state of Arkansas get for nearly 10 grand? Well, we inexplicably sent someone from the office to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which only makes sense when you know that SOS employee Kelly Boyd works as the governmental affairs director, aka the on-staff lobbyist for the nonpartisan and non-legislation-backing SOS Office that Martin touted on his campaign website. There’s not much detail in the checkbook to figure out what else we got, but I’m sure it was totally worth the money and not at all ridiculous.
You might be wondering how that $9,600+ total compares with other offices. It is, roughly, the same as the travel expenses for the office of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Land Commissioner, Treasurer, and Auditor combined. That’s an impressive amount of spending on stuff that, as far as anyone can tell, is borderline worthless.
3. They’ve spent $204,250 (so far) on repairing and renovating the skylight in the Senate chamber. The money is not the issue here, really; the funds came from a grant. Which might make you think, “hey, awesome . . . that’s money pumped into the Arkansas economy.” Except it’s not. Because Martin and Co. hired Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc., a Tennessee corporation, to do the work. Excuse me, I mean, a Tennessee corporation with a history of racial harassment. So that’s awesome.
4. Then there’s the $4,435.50 to Comcast Cable. Sure, there are some TVs in the main hall of the Capitol — showing FOX News, of course, because why wouldn’t you want vitriolic faux journalism available for all visitors — but where is the rest of that cost going? How many of the SoS’s office have cable TV, and why? While we’re at it, why do the Governor’s Office ($650.64), the Treasurer ($378.56), the Lt. Governor ($191.57), and the Auditor ($172.64) have cable bills? What need do they have for watching television at work? What news are they getting that they can’t get online? Why are we paying for this?
5. Finally, for purposes of this post, the SoS spent $8,672.00 at Crain Ford in Chenal. This is, of course, on top of the $27,629 he spent on the 2010 Ford Escape. Not a huge deal, I suppose, and fleet vehicles do need replaced from time to time, but still worth noting, if only because of the hypocrisy in Martin’s riding into office on a wave of Tea Party support, only to spend like there’s no tomorrow.
It’s not like we expected any less from Martin when he came into office, of course. His history of milking the state teat for every possible dime is well-documented. Still, I guess I hoped that his staff retreat to learn “ethics-based leadership” — price tag $54,000 — would have stanched the flow a little bit. Guess not. Maybe when the unfortunately looking Alex Reed gets back from the GOP Convention, he and Mark Martin’s chief lackey, Mark Myers, can come up with some not-at-all-ridiculous spin about how these numbers are totally ok you guys because . . . uh Democrats steal elections OBAMACARE!