An unnamed Arkansas lobbyist and a former legislator have been identified as co-conspirators in a scheme in which a political consultant conspired to take nearly $1 million from a nonprofit for use on illegal political activity.
The AP reports that Donald Andrew Jones, 62, of Willingboro, N.J., has pleaded guilty to conspiring to get $973,000 from Preferred Family Healthcare of Springfield, Mo., to use for lobbying and political contributions. Five unnamed co-conspirators who worked for Preferred Family Health have not been charged. One of those is said to be an Arkansas lobbyist and another a lobbyist and former legislator.
Preferred Family has been in the news before in relation to questionable political activities. One of its affiliates, Decision Point, which operates mental health and youth services facilities around Arkansas, figures in the pending kickback case against former legislators Micah Neal, who has pleaded guilty, and Jon Woods, who faces trial. According to documents in that case. a lobbyist for Decision Point, Rusty Cranford, arranged for its employees to apply for state surplus money for a corporation he’d created, with kickbacks planned to legislators. The company has denied wrongdoing. Cranford has not been charged. The same case alleges similar kickbacks from money directed to the church-related Ecclesia College in Springdale.
I’ve reported previously that Tim Summers, a former state legislator from Bentonville and employee of Decision Point, had signed an application for an $80,000 grant to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to poor families and that Rusty Cranford was the responsible agent for the program, which received $19,000. I can’t say if his work in this instance has any relationship to the Springfield case. Many legislators were involved in funneling money to agencies tied to the kickback case. It doesn’t mean they did anything wrong, beyond participating in the pork barreling in the first place.