Lobbyists Pay $94K for Parties for Heads of state House, Senate

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A letter in a state report shows lobbyists paid $68,000 for a party honoring state House Speaker Benny Petrus and $26,000 on one for Senate President Jack Critcher (D-Batesville) this year.  The parties were held at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock.

The letter, by Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President Paul Harvel, comes as the state Ethics Commission has begun asking questions about spending on the parties.  The commission director sent letters to more than 20 lobbyists about the parties.

In the letter, Harvel says the chamber collected $142,000 for the parties, held March 1 for Petrus and March 8 for Critcher.  Harvel says the chamber refunded more than $47,000 in excess contributions for the parties.

A copy of the letter was included in a report filed to the secretary of state's office by an Arkansas Dental Association lobbyist.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)