The nephew of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R), state Senator Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), was indicted Friday on charges of misusing campaign contributions for personal benefit, according to the Arkansas Times.
The state lawmaker — who denies any wrongdoing — stands accused of using tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for everything from luxurious trips to everyday grocery shopping.
Among the misuses of campaign funds listed in the indictment were tickets and accommodation expenses for a Caribbean cruise and a vacation to New Orleans, as well as shopping sprees at jewelry, clothing, and other retail stores. The government also alleges that he used campaign funds for more everyday expenses: groceries and gas charges, gym membership fees, and Netflix fees.
In his efforts to conceal the illicit use of campaign funds, according to the indictment, Hutchinson underreported approximately $71,000 in campaign contributions in his campaign filings submitted to the Secretary of State.
Hutchinson also falsified his federal income tax returns, the government alleges, by failing to report the contributions that he converted to personal use.
Finally, the government also alleges that during this same period, Hutchinson also falsified his federal income tax returns by underreporting the income that he made as an attorney. This charge may have little to do with the broader public corruption charges, but one detail pops: One of the entities that paid him as an attorney during this period, listed as Charity A, paid him $163,500 over the course of 2013 and 2014. In the federal information filed along with Cranford's plea, prosecutors stated that Preferred Family Healthcare, the tax-exempt charity previously known as Alternative Opportunities, paid Hutchinson ostensible legal fees during this period that were in fact bribes to curry favor in the legislature.
In all, the indictment alleges that Hutchinson used more than $200,000 for personal expenses from 2010 to 2017.
Separate from the current charges, Hutchinson also faces investigation over allegations of bribery:
Importantly, the charges brought against Hutchinson on Friday are distinct fromallegations of bribery that emerged in the guilty plea of former lobbyist Rusty Cranford. A source familiar with the investigation tells the Arkansas Times that today’s indictment is not a signal that authorities have dropped the investigation of legal fees paid to Hutchinson and another unnamed senator in what has been characterized as payments for favorable legislative actions. Those investigations continue.
Through his attorneys, Tim Dudley and Stephen Larson, Hutchinson released a statement after the charges were announced, maintaining the senator’s innocence.
"The allegations in today’s indictment are mere allegations. We look forward to vigorously disputing their accuracy very soon before a jury," the statement said. Dudley and Larson claim that "the government has irreparably impaired Mr. Hutchinson’s ability to defend himself by searching his computer without a warrant and then inexplicably destroying an image of his hard drive which possessed key exculpatory evidence.”
Governor Hutchinson released the following statement after charges were announced:
I just learned of the indictment against Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for campaign expenditure and federal tax violations. This is a very sad day for everyone when a family member is charged. I have to look at this sad news as an uncle but also as a political leader in the state.
As an uncle, my heart aches for Jeremy’s children and expanded family. This is a tough time, and it will not get any easier in the coming months.
As a political leader, I know the United States Attorney always reminds the public that these charges are only allegations and he is presumed innocent, but the reality is that the charges alone undermine public confidence in our system of government. For that reason, Jeremy understands he needs to resign from the Senate, and I support that decision. He will need to devote his resources and energy in answering these allegations.