Former Senator Gilbert Baker Indicted on Bribery Charges; No Indictment for Michael Morton Released
As first reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, former State Senator Gilbert Baker has been indicted on bribery charges related to former Judge Mike Maggio. Maggio is currently serving time in prison after admitting to accepting a bribe in exchange for lowering a jury award in the death of a nursing home patient. The owner of that nursing home, Michael Morton, has not had an indictment released against him to date.
Morton is most likely the person described in the indictment as “Individual A” as a stockholder in numerous nursing homes located in Arkansas. Political contributions originating from Morton were given to Baker who then worked with Individuals B, C, D, and F to distribute them to candidates for public office. The purpose of “political contributions from “Individual A” to Maggio in exchange for agreeing to act in his official capacity to benefit Individual A and Company A in the civil lawsuit.
Morton has been a long time political donor in Arkansas, giving personally, through his companies, and affiliated PACs. He is affiliated with the Arkansas Healthcare Association, representing nursing home interests in the state. According to the Conduit for Commerce Follow the Money Report, Morton and related persons donated over $57,000 in the 2018 republican primaries among the following persons:
Breanne Davis: $24,300
James Sturch: $14,500
Bob Ballinger: $13,500
Mat Pitsch: $5,400
Cole Peck: $250
Morton also donated to Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2018 but that donation was later returned. All of these 2018 donations came AFTER the allegations and stories of Mortons alleged involvement in bribery through campaign donations.
Others identified in the indictment include:
“Individual B” – a lawyer in Arkansas. According to information in the indictment pointing to documents of public record (Political Action Committee filings) this appears to be Chris Stewart, a Little Rock attorney. According to Stewart’s linked in page he is the CEO of RaiseTheMoney, an online fundraising platform, a former lobbyist, and a former political director for Asa for Governor.
“Individual C” – a lobbyist and consultant in Arkansas.
“Individual D” – a lobbyist and consulting in Arkansas who also served as the Treasurer and Principal of Company B, a non-profit trade association that supported tort reform.
“Individual E” was a candidate for judicial office in the May 20, 2014 nonpartisan judicial election.
“Individual F” was a political consultant.
The indictment details the scheme of Baker, Morton, and others to conceal and cover up the true source of political contributions to support Maggio and individual E.