Politics - News Analysis

Looks Like a Scandal Involving Sarah Huckabee Sanders Fleecing Arkansas Taxpayers is About to Blow Up

If Sarah Huckabee Sanders wasn’t already a talented grifter prior to working for Donald Trump, being his spokesperson was like a master class.

Being the daughter of a politician-slash-evangelical pastor got her more than ready to take the reins for the most corrupt President of all time. And in turn, that job polished her skills enough to land her in the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas.

But everyone eventually slips up, no matter how good they are, and it looks like #Podiumgate may be coming back to haunt her.

If you don’t remember or never heard, that’s okay. This story seems silly on the surface. We see government waste all the time, especially with Republicans. So finding out that Sarah had spent nearly 20 grand on a PODIUM to speak from behind — and that it was initially taxpayer money, until she got caught and the AR GOP paid it back for her — wasn’t that big a deal.

Now there are questions of whether she ever got the podium in the first place, or if that money went somewhere else.

See, the thing that turned this whole debacle into something ending in -gate (podiumgate? lecterngate?) in the first place is that, conveniently, it all happened as she was trying to get a law passed making it illegal for the public to look into her spending, and to make that retroactive.

But a Republican state legislator thought that was kind of fishy too. So state Senator Jimmy Hickey called on the Legislative Audit of Arkansas — a non-partisan entity that answers to the legislative branch in the state rather than the executive — to look into a few things.

Hickey asked for “one or more audits” regarding:

“(1) the purchase of a podium or lectern from Beckett Events LLC for the use of the Governor’s Office; and

(2) all matters, involving the Governor or the Governor’s Office, made confidential by Section 4(a) of Act 7 of the First Extraordinary Session of 2023.”

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers her inaugural address on Jan. 10, 2023, at a lectern that looks much like the one her office paid $19,000 for this summer and for which the Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed state government. (Karen E. Segrave for Arkansas Advocate)

Outside groups are now saying that Sanders paid friends for a podium she never got. Moreover, they claim that the money was used to fly Sanders’ friend Hannah to Paris when Sanders went. Like a girls’ trip! YAY!

Okay, pay attention, because this gets a tiny bit complicated. Hannah Stone, one of the organizers of the January 6 riots, is business partners with Virginia Beckett, another person implicated in January 6th. The money “for the podium” was paid to Beckett, and then Stone ended up on the same European trip as Sanders, whose friends with both of them.

This is a case of two plus two equals four. Sanders inflated the invoice with a podium that STILL hasn’t been actually seen by anyone, panicked when she got caught spending voters’ money and tried to make it illegal to even examine what she’d spent money on or who was on her flights.

I would understand if the privacy exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act were about security — but she doesn’t want anyone knowing about past activity, either.

@jesspipermo So all of the storyline points to the fact that Arkansas voters paid for a Paris trip for a friend of Sarah’s until they were caught. And then the AR GOP stepped in and wrote a check months later for the never seen never heard from podium. ##podiumgate ♬ original sound – Jess Piper

This guy summed it up pretty well.

meet the author

Nicole Hickman James is a lifelong Democrat and political activist who first cut her teeth as a teenager volunteering for Mike Dukakis’ presidential campaign. She has worked and volunteered for John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, HFA (Hillary For America), and Organizing For Action. She’s passionate about liberal and progressive causes and considers President Obama her favorite president ever. She holds her Bachelor’s from Boston College in Economics and her Master's from Columbia, also in Economics. When not working as a writer, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her three college-aged children.


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