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Calling Attorney General Leslie Rutledge "a day late and a dollar short" in investigating corruption in the state Legislature, her Democratic opponent, Mike Lee, filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, the latest target of an ongoing federal probe.

Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury on charges of wire and tax fraud.

In a complaint Lee delivered to the state Ethics Commission on Tuesday, the attorney general candidate said the federal indictment presented evidence of violations of state campaign-finance laws. In the indictment, Hutchinson was accused of improperly funneling more than $200,000 from his campaign toward personal uses.

Lee said that such breaches of state campaign-finance laws fall under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Ethics Commission, and asked the body to investigate further.

He also said Rutledge failed to adequately investigate public corruption during her current four-year term, and waits on federal investigators to take the lead.

Hutchinson, who is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, is the sixth current or former lawmaker to face federal criminal charges since the start of 2017. Five have pleaded or been found guilty. A seventh lawmaker faces state income tax evasion charges.

"You don't wait four years into your office to work on ethics, to show leadership with regards to ethics," Lee said. "This has festered for quite a while."

During a news conference last month, a deputy attorney general revealed that Rutledge's office is investigating one or more lawmakers, but declined to offer names.

Asked Tuesday whether Rutledge's office is investigating Jeremy Hutchinson, as spokesman declined to comment.

In an emailed statement, Jessica Ray, the spokesman for Rutledge's office, said, "Attorney General Rutledge made it a priority to hold bad actors accountable regardless of title or status, and therefore, she created the first Public Integrity Division of the Attorney General's Office to investigate corruption by public officials."

The Ethics Commission has the jurisdiction to seek civil or administrative penalties for violations of state campaign finance laws, according to Graham Sloan, the director of the agency. The decision to bring criminal charges is up to local prosecutors, Sloan said, though the agency may refer cases it handles to prosecutors.

Sloan declined to say whether his agency is investigating Jeremy Hutchinson's use of campaign funds.

In January 2013, the commission fined Hutchinson $500 and issued him a public letter of warning, saying he illegally converted campaign contributions into "personal income." The money -- $2,700 -- was deposited in 2010 into the account of Hutchinson's then-girlfriend. In 2012, Hutchinson filed a complaint against himself with the commission regarding the checks. He said he repaid the campaign. The commission said he also violated state law by failing to accurately disclose these expenditures on campaign finance reports and by failing to keep records of these expenditures.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 09/05/2018

Print Headline: AG hopeful files ethics complaint

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