Saturday, December 15, 2007

Clusterhuck

From the New York Times:

When Mike Huckabee became lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993, he complained of being burdened by college tuition bills for his son, the expenses of two residences — one in Texarkana and the other in Little Rock — and the cost of commuting between the two.

With an annual salary of $25,452, he said he was falling short in covering the bills. “It was costing me money to be lieutenant governor,” Mr. Huckabee recalled in a 1997 newspaper interview.

To bridge the gap between his income and his expenses, Mr. Huckabee and a few close political advisers came up with a plan. They formed a nonprofit organization that raised money for Mr. Huckabee to travel the country promoting conservative politics to fellow ministers and attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan.

In its three-year life span, the organization, Action America, collected $119,916 from a dozen or so donors. Among them were former Senator Bob Dole’s political action committee, an Arkansas cotton gin owner who had been jailed for stock fraud, and R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant that had opposed the Clinton health plan. As for Mr. Huckabee, he ended up with $61,500 for his efforts before becoming governor in July 1996 and shuttering the group.

As information about the secretive group began to leak out in 1997, Democrats in Arkansas pressed for the identity of its donors, which Mr. Huckabee has refused to disclose. In addition, he failed to report his Action America income on his 1994 financial disclosure form, resulting in a “letter of caution” from the Arkansas Ethics Commission in 1997.

As Mr. Huckabee moves to the top tier of Republican candidates, his involvement in Action America and accusations of ethical lapses while he held office in Arkansas are drawing new scrutiny. In all, at least 16 ethics complaints, including the one involving Action America, were filed against Mr. Huckabee, with violations found in five of them and a $1,000 fine assessed.

Don’t let that “aw-shucks” and “folksy” demeanor fool you; beneath that Andy-of-Mayberry exterior lies a hard-core right-winger who has no qualms about going for the jugular of his opponents.

Oh, and he also fudges the truth on his educational background (does he have a B.A. in theology or doesn’t he?) and when it comes to the subprime mortgage crisis, he has no sympathy for the people who are being foreclosed. He’s very good at channeling the 21st century version of Ebenezer Scrooge: “What, are the workhouses empty? Why can’t these people set up political action committees and raise the money that way?”

The most interesting aspect of this whole phenomenon is the frantic panic on the right as they realize that Mr. Huckabee is gaining ground on their favorites. The biggest fear is that he won’t just pander to the Religious Reich and then blow them off like Bush did; he’s really one of them.