(The Center Square) – The Arkansas Legislative Joint Auditing Executive Committee unanimously approved a request for an audit over the purchase of a lectern by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office that the state Republican party later reimbursed.
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, requested the audit amid public scrutiny of the purchase that lit a firestorm on social media and garnered national attention.
Blogger Matt Campbell, who writes the Blue Hog Report, first showed a copy of the invoice on X, the social media site known as Twitter, last month. Days later, the purchase made on a state credit card was reimbursed by the Republican Party of Arkansas. The story has since been featured in national media.
Hickey said he wanted to make sure that there is nothing that has not been released yet.
“There’s some information that’s been put out that’s substantial,” Hickey said. “However, some of that I may have verified, some of it may have just been that was sent to me that supposedly was done through FOI request, audit’s going to have a large job because they have to go through that.”
Hickey said the audit would answer questions about whether or not the intention was to use state funds for the audit.
“I believe that the things that have been disseminated out there actually show that it was purchased as a state asset and that state funds were going to be used, according to some emails, according to a whole bunch of emails.” he said. “If the Republican Party had actually made this purchase themselves, then no sir, we would not be here. It’s just that a state credit card was used. Some emails seem to allude that state funds were going to be used.”
The committee also agreed to examine matters involving the governor or the governor’s office made confidential during the special session. Lawmakers agreed to shield records about the governor’s security and security detail. The governor proposed a provision that would have kept communications between her and her cabinet secret, but that was stripped from the bill.
Hickey said there were questions about the timing of the lectern purchase and the FOIA bill.
“On that podium purchase, whether it was a coincidence or whether it was not, I know that the Senate, we adjourned on 10:02 on the 14th of September. We had a bill signing that was somewhere close to noon and then I found out even this week that that reimbursement was actually done the same day that we left out of here,” Hickey said.
The full Legislative Joint Auditing Committee must also approve the purchase when they meet on Friday.
The governor’s office said it welcomes the audit.
“This is nothing more than a manufactured controversy by left wing activists to distract from the bold conservative reforms the governor has signed into law and is effectively implementing in Arkansas,” said Alexa Henning, the governor’s spokeswoman, told The Center Square.