Arkansas is, along with Georgia, one of those “small Southern states” that featured prominently in Al Gore’s stump speech back in 1992. I heard him give it in person in Valdosta, Georgia when Valdosta was the closest the campaign came to Gainesville, Florida. Of course Georgia isn’t a small state (the eleventh largest, in fact), but the Bush/Quayle campaign was into belittling their opponents any way they could.
Maybe the reason George Herbert Walker Bush didn’t consider the upstart nobody multi-term Governor of Arkansas to be serious competition was because he figured that whatever support the boys at Stephens Inc. had provided Clinton (after the disaster in New Hampshire), he’d enjoyed their full support before and expected to again.
A word about Stephens Inc. seems appropriate at this point. The firm, a closely held family enterprise which doesn’t have to make its investments public, touts itself as the largest brokerage off Wall Street. Now run by Warren Stephens, the firm’s list of clients includes the Waltons, Tyson Foods, Monsanto and whatever interests David Rockefeller (Council for the Americas, Council on Foreign Relations, etc.) might have. Stephens Inc. is proud to be off-Wall Street, but they do deals with Goldman Sachs and Lazard Freres on a regular basis. And, since their beginning in the 1930s, they’ve made a good living off of bonds. Indeed, just before the recent crash, Stephens Inc. was trying to drum up business by convincing various authorities and public agencies to bond already existing and paid-off capital facilities, in order to make up for falling revenues from tax collections and fees. Bonds, you see, provide a steady trickle of income for the investment class; taxes, being more direct, don’t.
Anyway, Stephens Inc. hedged their bet and gave Bill Clinton a needed boost and, in return, Rockefeller’s man Mac McLarty got to be chief of staff and shepherded the North American Free Trade Agreement through the Congress with success, which HGWB had failed to do. At least I’m assuming that was McLarty’s assignment. He was rewarded with an ambassadorial-type appointment to the Council of the Americas, before he hooked up with Kissinger and Associates. At a minimum, McLarty was more than just a grade-school chum of Clinton’s in Hope, Arkansas. And Stephens Inc. is more than an off-Wall Street brokerage in Little Rock, Arkansas. That there’s also a spin-off Stephens Media Group is another story.
The Stephens clan caught my attention during the 2004 presidential campaign, when they first funded the Club for Growth to take out Howard Dean and then partially financed the Swiftboat effort to derail John Kerry. There were a lot of reasons for defeating Kerry, I’m sure. Not the least of which was his investigation into Iran Contra and the elder Bush’s role in that. While the focus on Clinton’s peccadilloes had effectively distracted follow up on the Bush/Riady connection and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the prospectt of Kerry in the White House was not likely to be a “six of one, half dozen of the other” situation.
Then, long-range planning had a bit of a set-back. Although Winthrop P. Rockefeller, son of the Republican Winthrop Rockefeller, Governor from 1967-1971, had moved up into the Lieutenant Governor slot (following the appointment of Mike Huckabee as Governor, when Jim Guy Tucker was forced to resign) and was expected to run for Governor, he died of cancer at the age of 57 in 2006. This led to the election of Bill Halter, who’s now announced an interest in challenging the Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln, much to the delight of progressives all around the country.
It’s pretty clear that Senator Lincoln is out of the Stephens Stable and, as head of the Agriculture Committee, she’s well placed to protect the interests of Monsanto, proud owner of the Terminator gene and recently acquired Delta and Pine Land, the nation’s largest purveyor of cotton seed and a close collaborator with scientists at Rockefeller University. But, it isn’t Lincoln’s stance on agriculture that has people riled. It’s been her staunch opposition to the reform of health insurance which provides strong evidence that she’s in the pockets of Stephens‘ pharmaceutical clients.
Bill Halter, although he managed to wrangle a donation from Warren Stephens for his successful campaign to fund college scholarships with a lottery (a pot of money for Stephens to manage?), seems to be running a populist campaign. The internets have collected $1.25 million for him and he’s amassing a nationwide email list. He’s personable and his ads seem effective. The most recent one is the second in the football stadium series.
Blanche, on the other hand, had one of the silliest ads ever.
So, that’s where the Arkansas Senate Situation stands.