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By David Ferguson, Courtesy of Conduit For Action

President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Jim Hendren, said something concerning the members of the Arkansas General Assembly that has been on my mind for a long time – there are good people in the Arkansas legislature.

Here is what he said, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

There are senators who are some of the finest people he has known, he said.

There is a senator who raised thousands of dollars each year to make sure children in state care have Christmas presents; another who traveled to West Africa eight times to help build water and sanitation systems to help those near starvation; and another who was shot down twice in Vietnam, returned to fight and was honored for his service, he said.

There is another senator who donated a kidney to save a family member; another who served in Afghanistan and was honored for his service; others who provide homes for dozens of foster care children; and some who donated thousands of dollars to charity to improve the lives of children in Arkansas, Hendren said.

“We have good people in the Arkansas Senate who have come here out of the dedication to serve and a determination to make Arkansas a better place,” he said. [i]

Hendren was describing a side of politicians that I am very familiar with from several decades of working for the legislature.  I am reminded of many instances in which legislators rallied around an ill or bereaved colleague, even if they didn’t agree on politics. I am reminded of times I saw a legislator cry because the legislator hurt for a constituent who had suffered much. You may not be aware that many politicians are very involved in the ministries of their churches or involved in some charity. Even the meanest legislator I ever knew had a passion for helping disabled kids.

In 2017 I wrote an article for Conduit For Action titled “Sixteen felon AR politicians and counting.” Since then several more legislators have become felons. Arkansas has a long history of politicians being convicted of crimes. Because of the many highly publicized crimes, some people assume all politicians are bad. That is just not true.

In the article, I didn’t list the names of the politicians convicted of felonies because for many it had been a long time ago and because I could remember some of the good things they did before their criminal act.

Politicians, just like everyone else, are human beings, which means they are more complex than just what they do as an elected official.

The Flip Side

While it is a mistake to think of politicians as bad, it is also a mistake to overlook a politician’s self-dealing based on the politician being friendly, doing good deeds, having military service, going to your church, or having a kid on your kid’s ball team. Just because a politician does many good things, does not mean the politician isn’t engaged in self-dealing or isn’t pretending to be on your side while selling out to special interests.

Think of the politician as your employee.  If you own a business (or even if you hired someone to do work on your house or car) you know some of the nicest people are terrible employees.  It is not just whether you will hire or fire the employee, it is also a matter of whether you will insist on the employee doing things right.

You would not sit back and do nothing if your employee uses deception and lies, makes empty promises, steals from you, or covers over the misdeeds of coworkers. Again, politicians are your employees.

One of the things I like about Conduit For Action is CFA is not about being “on” or “off” the “team” of a politician.  Instead CFA is all about issues. This is hard for a few politicians to understand because they expect the world to be divided into goupies and enemies. A few politicians want their colleagues to think that CFA’s call for reforms and fiscal responsibility is an attack on politicians, but their colleagues are not stupid.

Are politicians human? YES! And, most are very good people! With that said, (whether you are on the left or right) you still need to hold them accountable for how they do the public’s business

 


David Ferguson is a former Director of Arkansas’ Bureau of Legislative Research, having a thirty-two-year career as an attorney for the Arkansas legislature.  After retirement from state service his primary focus has been beef cattle farming. He is also a former officer of Conduit for Action.


[i] https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jan/15/session-opens-with-ethics-call-20190115/

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