Judge rejects Shoffner’s plea
According to media reports, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes on Friday tossed out an agreement under which former Arkansas State Treasurer Martha “Pie Fan” Shoffner was to plead guilty to one count of extortion for allegedly accepting at least $36,000 in exchange for sending business to a broker’s company. It has been alleged that two $6,000 payments were sent to Shoffner disguised in pie boxes that even had pies in them (the desserts, perhaps, were bonuses).
Shoffner, seemingly, admitted to accepting money from the broker but denied that she deliberately sent more business to that broker. Shoffner was to be sentenced in accordance with attempt and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right under the federal Hobbs Act. Under the terms of the Hobbs Act, Shoffner would have had to admit that she accepted money with the intention of letting the broker handle the state’s investments. She also denied demanding money from the broker.
In other words, Shoffner says she was offered $36,000 over a period of about three years and she gladly took it but didn’t intend to give the broker anything in exchange. That’s an odd position for the Pie Fan to take, particularly since it doesn’t make sense for someone to shell out $36,000 to an elected official and not want anything in return.
In this day and age government officials are clearly (and, often, legally) for sale to lobbyists and the self-interested groups they represent, so what did Shoffner expect when she received a pile of money from a broker who apparently wanted to handle some of the state’s investment accounts? Indeed, there’s a thin line between bribery and lobbying, but we’ll not examine the difference between the two loathsome practices (if, indeed, there is one) in the confines of this article. Well, we’ll mention one thing — perhaps the difference is that bribes are not reported whereas lobbyists are required to file quarterly reports detailing how much they spend on buying influence and which politicians benefit.
At any rate, you can read more about the sad, sad tale of the Pie Fan here.
The next step in this entertaining should involve a federal grand jury and an indictment. We’ll report on what happens along those lines.
Meanwhile, politicians from both parties have been demanding Shoffner’s resignation since she was arrested on May 18. State Democrats must have been particularly furious with the Pie Fan since that party named her the 2010 Arkansas Politician of the Year (Shoffner had bragged about that little tidbit on the Arkansas State Treasury site, but that post has been removed for obvious reasons).
Shoffner resigned on May 21 and Charles Robinson was appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to replace her. Robinson is well known in this state. He worked for 34 years in the Division of Legislative Audit, serving 28 years as the Legislative Auditor before retiring in 2007.
It is not clear whether he likes pie, however.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.