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The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

“Lecterngate” Sparks Legislative Audit

Questions arise over governor’s purchase of $19,000 podium
Asher Simmons

A controversy surrounding Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ administration emerged after the purchase of a $19,000 lectern. “Lecterngate” as it was dubbed made national headlines following a special legislative session called by Sanders Sept. 8 to focus on tax cuts, banning vaccine mandates for state employees, and changing the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The story was originally uncovered by Matt Campbell, a local attorney and founder of the Blue Hog Report blog, who requested an FOI surrounding the governor’s travel records. After the state withheld the information saying there were concerns surrounding the safety of Sanders and her three children, Campbell filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas State Police.

In response, Sanders proposed changes to Arkansas’ FOIA and criticized those requesting information about her travel. 

“Some are weaponizing FOIA and taking advantage of our laws to hamper state government and enrich themselves,” Sanders said at a news conference during the special session. “They don’t care about transparency. They want to waste taxpayer dollars, slow down our bold conservative agenda, and frankly, put my family’s lives at stake.”

Campbell pushed back against the governor’s claims.

“The Arkansas State Police are no different than any other agency, and they can only withhold records based on a valid FOIA exemption,” Campbell said in an interview with KATV reporter Andrew Mobley. “Instead, they chose to…claim a non-existent FOIA exemption, only to admit that there was no legal basis which prevented the release of these records at the time I requested them.”

During the special session, Sanders proposed legislation to restrict the release of information pertaining to the protection of state officials. The Arkansas Press Association argued this reform could weaken political transparency. 

“This bill goes far beyond the goal of protecting our public officials and their families. If this bill passes, it will drastically weaken Arkansas FOIA laws and the public’s access to information,” the association said in a statement.

Amid backlash, the revised version of the bill created a new exemption for records about the protection of state officials, passed tax cuts, and banned vaccine mandates for state employees.

The new FOIA law took effect immediately, allowing the state police to withhold information from Campbell.

After another FOI request, Campbell then uncovered receipts detailing the purchase of a $19,000 lectern. Records revealed the podium was bought using a state credit card. The Arkansas Republican Party later said they reimbursed the state for that amount.

This controversy has led to questions surrounding the use of taxpayer money and what is being shared with the public, but Sanders dismissed these concerns. 

“People want to manufacture a controversy where there isn’t one. The lectern is something the state’s been reimbursed for, and I think there are some people who are always going to be angry and always looking for something to complain about and that’s what they’re doing right now,” Sanders said in an interview with AP reporter Andrew DeMillo. 

Campbell argues the problem is not necessarily about the lectern itself, but about how the state’s money is being spent. Republican senator Jimmy Hickey has since initiated an audit of the state’s financial transactions to disprove allegations of corruption.

“I think where we are with everything that’s transpired out of this podium, I think for all involved it’s going to be better if we go back and look at all the retroactive stuff,” Hickey said in an interview with Arkansas times’ Austin Bailey. “It seems like, to me, the podium and all that have been tied together.” 

Oct 12. The Arkansas Legislative Audit Committee agreed to conduct an expedited audit of the lectern purchase and “significant expenditures involving the governor’s office.”


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About the Contributors
Jack Baker
Jack Baker, Print Editor
Hi! My name is Jack Baker, I'm in 12th grade, and I'm so excited to serve as the print editor this year! This will be my third year in journalism class, but my favorite subjects are history and English. I'm particularly interested in politics and modern culture. When I'm not at school, I'm usually competing in policy debate, running cross country, playing the piano, or hanging out with friends.
Sybil Curran
Sybil Curran, News Editor
This is my second year on staff and I am passionate about sharing and learning about the community and giving everyone a voice. Outside of Tiger News, I play tennis and enjoy hanging out with my friends.
Josh McNeil
Josh McNeil, Editor in Chief
Hello! This year I'm a senior and second-year Tiger News staffer. I'm excited to publish more stories about issues facing both students and other members of the Central community. When I'm not reporting, I like fishing, playing with my dogs, and working on cars.
Asher Simmons
Asher Simmons, Artist
Hi! I'm a senior, and this is my second year on staff. This year I hope to be able to show off my photography and art skills. In my spare time I like to play video games. My favorite video game this year is Best of US Part II. "When you're lost in the darkness, look for the light."

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  • N

    Nicole GoffOct 15, 2023 at 7:21 am

    I still believe with where we are at this time we have more important things to worry about. So please look around and pray that this president doesn’t kill us all

  • C

    Constance Mills-GillinghamOct 13, 2023 at 4:55 pm

    Y r we not as concerned with our mentally ill inmates in at prisons not receiving needed mental health medications as we r with a piece of wood? Granted the exorbitant amount could have paid for only partial medications. Why r we not concerned that as IG Smith was proud of her accomplishment of having the mentally I’ll of Arkansas arrested because she defended medical insurance for them as a different job for the governor office under Hutchinson, and still employed by sanders. Prisons mark up their supplies by 50%. That’s a nice chunk of change from family and friends trying to stay connected and since no meds, trying to ensure some form of food that helps regulate the illness is available.