Did the anti-LEARNS judge accept an illegal campaign contribution?
2 min read

Did the anti-LEARNS judge accept an illegal campaign contribution?

Next Gen
May 26
2 min read

The far Left’s crusade against educational freedom continues and took a new turn on Friday: news broke that Pulaski County Judge Herbert Wright was pausing the implementation of the popular LEARNS Act.

We’ve written about how silly the LEARNS lawsuit is, primarily because it challenges a long-standing legislative process that has, well, never even been questioned. And if the legal “logic” holds, it would effectively undo any legislation that’s ever been passed by the Arkansas legislature that contains an emergency clause.

According to Judge Wright’s ruling, the act’s implementation will be put on pause until another hearing on June 20th. Attorney General Tim Griffin has already announced he intends to appeal the ruling immediately.

Hours after the ruling came out, I began to see a flurry of tweets about Wright, calling him an “activist judge.” That’s often a pejorative thrown around by both parties when judges rule in a way they dislike, so I decided to do some research of my own and make my own determination.

The jury is still somewhat out on the judge’s activism score – although I did discover he was the same judge who forced the state to continue giving out wasteful and excessive unemployment benefits in 2021 – but I found something perhaps even more alarming.

According to a 2020 campaign finance report filed by Judge Wright, he accepted $550 from the City of Sherwood Parks & Recreation department as a contribution.

See for yourself:

Now, as I see it, there are a few plausible scenarios here:

  • Scenario #1: This donation happened (as reported) & taxpayer funds were given to a political candidate. This is almost certainly illegal (although I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV).
  • Scenario #2: The donation happened & taxpayer funds were given to a political candidate, but there is some sort of loophole in Arkansas law that permits this practice. If this were somehow the case, I would contend that it's still highly concerning that taxpayer funds were used in this way and the legislature should close any such loophole immediately.
  • Scenario #3: The donation did not happen and this is some sort of reporting or clerical error. I find this scenario to be fairly unlikely, but if this is what occurred, it is one a doozy of a typo.

And of course, there could theoretically be some other possible explanation for this bizarre incident. Although it's difficult to imagine what that explanation might be, the public looks forward to hearing Judge Wright’s explanation promptly.

Ultimately, it's troubling to consider that Judge Wright may have knowingly accepted taxpayer funds for his campaign. At best, it shows very poor judgment. At worst, it may be illegal (and if it's not, it should be).

If Judge Wright does not have any better common or legal sense than this, can we really trust his legal judgment on something as critical as LEARNS?

We’re heading into a holiday weekend, so it may be difficult to learn much more about this story over the next few days, but I will be reaching out to the City of Sherwood to see if they can shed any light on the situation. Someone should also probably give the Arkansas Ethics Commission a call.

Image of the story authorNicholas Horton
Founder & CEO

Nic Horton is a native Arkansan and Founder & CEO of Opportunity Arkansas. He has spent more than a decade in the conservative movement as an expert on election, disability, tax, welfare, and workforce reform.

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