Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s political action committee, Huck PAC, gave Citizens for a Better Little Rock over 61% of the funds the group received, a finance report shows. The group has been behind TV ads critical of incumbent Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Huckabee is seen here in 2015 during his unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, to include Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s response.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s political action committee, HuckPAC, is the primary funding source for a group behind advertising critical of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and his re-election bid.
Ads targeting the mayor have appeared on media outlets in the Little Rock area, paid through Citizens For a Better Little Rock, an independent expenditure committee.
The Citizens group collected $56,700 in total contributions between Oct. 20, 2021, and Oct. 4 this year, according to the group’s only campaign finance report, filed Tuesday with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
It has spent $39,731, mostly on TV advertising, the report indicates.
HuckPAC was listed as the biggest contributor — $35,000 of the total collected — including a $20,000 contribution on July 19 and $15,000 on Sept. 16.
In a statement Tuesday, Huckabee wrote: “We were very glad to help the Citizens For A Better Little Rock since we live in the area and the high crime rates have a direct impact on the quality of life for our families, friends, and the future of Central Arkansas where I’ve continuously owned or occupied a home since 1993.
“Stopping violent crime is an issue Democrats and Republicans can agree on.”
The other largest donor is poultry executive Ronald Cameron of Little Rock, $10,000. Cameron has been a major contributor nationally to conservative causes.
Contributions above $1,000 to Citizens for a Better Little Rock
Ronald Cameron $10,000
DJ’s Auto Repair $ 2,500
Gus Vratsinas $ 2,100
Broker Solutions $ 2,000
Citizens for a Better Little Rock filed with the Secretary of State’s office on Oct. 20, 2021, listing its registered agent as Darbie Kuykendall. Kuykendall did not return calls or texts Tuesday.
The group’s mission statement, according to its website, describes Little Rock as “where we work, play and raise a family…But there are problems here too: crime, too many low-paying jobs, wasteful spending of our tax dollars, a lack of recreational areas and crumbling infrastructure.”
Officials with the campaigns for Scott and opponent Steve Landers also didn’t immediately return requests for comment. Landers, owner of a chain of car dealerships, has been critical of Scott in public forums where the two have appeared.
Late Tuesday, Scott took to Twitter and Facebook to denounce HuckPAC’s involvement in the mayoral campaign.
In a press release, Scott linked his social media comments here and here, and said, “[I]t’s clear right-wing special interests are taking notice of the good, strong, progressive work we’ve accomplished in Little Rock. Not only do they want to turn back the clock on the work we’ve done, but to take over our city and our state.
“I want to be very clear, in these final few weeks of the campaign, we are going to see dark money – from Mike Huckabee and extreme right-wing special interests alike — taking aim at our city, and our work.
“We can’t let Mike Huckabee or these special interests take over our city, especially through dark money and attacks. I won’t stand for it, and I know our city won’t either.”
Independent expenditure groups spend money on advertising for or against a candidate, but are not allowed to coordinate with any candidate’s campaign. The groups report their donors, but those behind these efforts can be difficult to determine or aren’t revealed until late in campaigns.
Another Little Rock mayoral candidate, food blogger and entrepreneur Greg Henderson, said he never wants to see “dark money” enter a race through an independent expenditure group.
About HuckPAC’s contributions, Henderson texted: “You always have to question the motives of any group like that which has shown almost no interest in Little Rock previously suddenly trying to tear down a candidate.”
HuckPAC “represents the radical right and their goal [is] to disrupt politics in Little Rock,” Henderson wrote. “They are not looking out for the best interest of the city, instead they are looking out for their own interests and pushing Mr. Landers to get elected so that they can enact their agenda within the city.”
Candidates for state and district offices are required in Arkansas to file quarterly campaign finance disclosure reports in years their election isn’t on the ballot. In election years, they must file at least monthly.
Independent expenditure committees file contribution and spending information far less frequently. They are required to report only “no later than 30 days before” primaries, general elections or special elections, according to the Arkansas Ethics Commission filing calendar. Final reports are required “no later than 30 days after the end of the month in which the last election is held.”
Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is the Republican nominee in the Arkansas governor’s race.
The former governor and candidate for president founded the political action commitee Huck PAC “to promote conservative principles,” according to the PAC’s website. The committee cites political contributions in 2020 to 529 candidates, totaling almost $2.5 million.
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