LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas' state treasurer resigned Tuesday after being accused of accepting at least $36,000 cash in exchange for steering business to an investment broker, bowing to bipartisan calls to step down or face removal from office.
Democrat Martha Shoffner held the office since 2007 and was re-elected in 2010. She was barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year.
"I am proud to have been elected by and to have served the people of the state of Arkansas and regret that I can no longer perform the duties and responsibilities owed to the public," Shoffner wrote in a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe.
Her resignation was effective 5 p.m. Tuesday. A spokesman for Beebe said the governor received Shoffner's letter late Tuesday afternoon but had not spoken directly to her.
After her arrest in an FBI sting operation Saturday, Shoffner was under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step down.
She spent the weekend in jail, appeared in court Monday and was released on her own recognizance. She didn't enter a plea, but her attorney, Chuck Banks, said she would plead not guilty at the appropriate time. A next court date was not set.
A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict. Shoffner, 68, is charged with attempt and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right under the Hobbs Act, a federal law often used to prosecute public officials for accepting bribes.
The charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
"It would be very hard, in my opinion, for that office to properly function under her continued leadership," Beebe, a Democrat who was among those calling for Shoffner to resign, said Monday.
Earlier Tuesday, before it was clear that Shoffner was resigning, Beebe said he'd consider asking lawmakers to remove the treasurer if she didn't leave office. The top Republican in the GOP-controlled House, Rep. Bruce Westerman, urged Beebe to call a meeting of lawmakers to start the process of removing Shoffner.
"I think she made the right decision in the best interest of the state and also saved the taxpayer dollars of a special session to remove her," said Westerman, of Hot Springs.
Rep. Greg Leding, the top Democrat in the House, said his caucus was prepared to call for a special session to remove Shoffner if she hadn't resigned by the end of the week.
"While she is innocent until proven guilty, we saw no way for her to be able to execute the duties of that office," said Leding, of Fayetteville. "The people of Arkansas deserve somebody who can executive the duties of that office responsibly."
Federal prosecutors allege Shoffner accepted $12,000 a year from a broker who would sometimes deliver cash in a pie box, with the pie included. They said the broker is cooperating with investigators.
An FBI affidavit filed in federal court alleges that a bond broker – unidentified in court documents – would roll up cash in $6,000 increments and have it delivered to Shoffner's office every six months. At least two of the payments were delivered in a pie box with a pie. The broker "recognized his/her bond business with the state grew because of the payments," the affidavit said.
The payments were made after Shoffner asked the broker for $1,000 a month to pay her rent in Little Rock, according to the affidavit. The document said the broker was granted immunity in exchange for cooperating.
Shoffner had faced inquiries about the way her office handled state investments. Last year, legislative auditors questioned her selling of bonds before they matured, a practice they said cost the state more than $434,000 worth of earnings.
Shoffner was arrested at her Newport home after the broker agreed to record the meeting and bring $6,000 in a pie box, the affidavit said. FBI agents executed a search warrant and found the cash inside a cigarette package in Shoffner's kitchen. Shoffner admitted she accepted the payments from the broker, the FBI said in its affidavit.
After court Monday, Shoffner told reporters she didn't plan to resign, but her attorney said he would probably advise her to do so.
Lawmakers faced two options in the state constitution for removing her if she didn't resign. One called for an impeachment vote in the House, followed by the trial in the Senate.
The other provision said the governor can remove the treasurer "upon the joint address of two-thirds" of the House and Senate. But it was unclear from the wording whether the provision meant a two-thirds vote would have been needed to remove Shoffner.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor also had called for her resignation. So had the heads of the state Democratic and Republican parties.
Whoever Beebe appoints to fill Shoffner's term cannot run for the seat next year.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the governor has potential replacements in mind and plans to put someone in place quickly. DeCample declined to name specific candidates.
Shoffner, a former state representative, was first elected treasurer in 2006 and won a second term in 2010 after defeating a Green Party challenger.
During her re-election bid, she apologized for referring to the state trooper driving Beebe as a "manservant." Shoffner made the comments while defending her personal use of a state vehicle.
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo
Also on HuffPost:
Then-Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) was a proponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned states from recognizing same-sex marriage. "Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded," he argued on the Senate floor in 2004. He also called on President Bill Clinton to resign over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/16/ensign-whacked-clinton-fo_n_216508.html">saying it had destroyed the president's credibility</a>. Yet in 2009, Ensign admitted that he had had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer who was also the wife of one of his top aides. An ethics investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI followed, and<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/21/john-ensign-resigns-reports_n_852285.html"> Ensign resigned</a> in 2011.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has a long and rich history of hypocrisy, including receiving a reported $1.6 million in consulting fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before blaming the mortgage giants for the country's housing crisis and <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/newt-gingrich-endorses-obamacare-individual-mandate-audio-2012-1">endorsing President Barack Obama's health care plan</a> before the 2012 presidential primary campaign, during which he hammered Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan for being similar to Obamacare. But his crowning hypocrisy was probably leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s over the Monica Lewinsky scandal while Gingrich himself was having an extramarital affair. His ex-wife Marianne recently claimed that while they were married, Newt <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/19/open-marriage-newt-gingrich-marianne-affair-_n_1217944.html">requested an "open marriage" </a>so that he could continue the affair with his now-wife, Callista.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/02/charles-rangel-censured-censure_n_791289.html">he was congressionally censured</a> for failing to pay income taxes and filing misleading financial statements, among other misdeeds. But that didn't stop him from hammering Mitt Romney for his lack of transparency on tax returns. "Before he judges other people about paying federal income taxes, Governor Romney should come clean about the tax returns he's hiding from voters," Rangel said.
The failed vice presidential candidate has been an outspoken opponent of earmark spending, but that didn't stop Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/27/paul-ryan-emails-stimulus_n_2027975.html">arranging a $735,000 earmark</a> to construct a transit center in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. Likewise, after slamming President Barack Obama's stimulus package, Ryan sought stimulus funds for several projects in his district.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the original sponsor of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but her war against "socialized medicine" hasn't stopped husband Marcus from <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bachmann-20110626,0,7400031,print.story">applying for public funds</a> for his "pray away the gay" counseling practice. Bachmann, an outspoken opponent of big government, has also <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bachmann-20110626,0,7400031,print.story">personally benefited from federal farm subsidies</a>. She recently described the Internal Revenue Service, which earlier in her career employed her to sue people in tax collection cases, as <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/07/11/264991/bachmann-tax-collector-irs/">"the most heartless organization anyone knows of." </a>
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has loudly congratulated himself for the GOP House jobs package -- even though economists say the package's 32 bills <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/republican-jobs-bills_n_1687647.html">will do little to create jobs</a> -- while working hard to block President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan. A longtime critic of wasteful government spending, Boehner (along with other House Republican leaders) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/doma-house-republicans_n_1971666.html">spent $1.5 million</a> defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
He won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21262661/ns/us_news-environment/t/gore-un-climate-panel-win-nobel-peace-prize/#.UKqNy2mMF9Q">a Nobel Peace Prize</a> for his work on climate change, but Al Gore's own carbon footprint was once an inconvenient issue. His 20-room Nashville mansion and pool house in 2006 <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/GlobalWarming/story?id=2906888&page=1#.UKqO42mMF9Q">racked up $30,000 in utility bills</a>, consuming more than 20 times the national home average, according to a report by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. A Gore spokesperson <a href="http://nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/despite-home-upgrades-gore-still-%E2%80%98hypocrite%E2%80%99-energy-usage-group-says">disputed the conservative think tank's report</a> and said that renovations on the home cut its electricity and natural gas consumption about 40 percent by the next year.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), a famed segregationist, spent many of his 48 years in the U.S. Senate fighting racial integration and equality, punctuated by his 24-hour filibuster in a failed attempt to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Six months after Thurmond's death in 2003, a biracial woman named Essie Mae Washington-Williams revealed that the late senator was her father. Her mother was 16 and working for Thurmond’s parents when she became pregnant.
From his opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform, which was patterned after his own plan in Massachusetts, to his politically expedient shifts in positions on immigration, climate change and abortion, Mitt Romney has a record of hypocrisy too expansive and well documented for any Etch A Sketch to erase.
During his time in office, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) introduced a bill against child pornography, fought to expand federal sex offender laws, supported anti-gay legislation and chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Then he was caught sending graphic sex messages to underage males working as congressional pages. He quickly resigned in 2006.
When Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) admitted his involvement in the "D.C. Madam" scandal in 2007, it didn’t end his career or lead to any criminal charges. It also didn't end his attempts to narrow prosecutorial discretion for others in vulnerable positions. At a hearing last year on the HALT Act, which would have suspended discretionary immigration protections, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) <a href="http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/07/sen_david_vitter_called_hypocr.html">accused Vitter</a> of "hypocrisy to seek to limit the use of discretion when one has enjoyed the benefit himself." Vitter has also advocated for abstinence-only sex education and in 2004 ran on a "family values" platform that included opposition to same-sex marriage.
Sarah Palin has been an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama's health care plan, but a more socialized system wasn't always so problematic for her. In 2010, she admitted to having taken <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/08/palin-crossed-border-for_n_490080.html"> trips across the Canadian border</a> to receive single-payer health care long before she brought "death panels" into the war against the Affordable Care Act.
Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) is best known for his 2007 airport bathroom trip that ended in a same-sex-sting arrest for lewd conduct after he allegedly solicited sex from an undercover officer. Craig blamed his wandering foot on his "wide stance" but soon announced his resignation, then decided to serve out the rest of his term. While in office, he had supported the anti-gay marriage Federal Marriage Amendment and voted against a measure to include anti-gay bias in hate crimes legislation. He received a rating of zero from the Human Rights Campaign for his votes on LGBT issues. <em><strong>CORRECTION</strong>: A previous version of this slide implied that Craig followed through on his threat to resign.</em>
While serving as the Democratic governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer was brought down by a federal wiretap that revealed he patronized a $1,000-an-hour prostitute named Ashley Dupre at a Washington, D.C., hotel. Further investigation uncovered the prostitution ring Emperors Club VIP, and numerous money transfers to the club were traced back to Client 9 -- the governor. As New York state attorney general, Spitzer <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/03/report_governor_spitzer_involv.html">prosecuted at least two prostitution rings</a>, and as governor he forced state comptroller Alan Hevesi out of office for the comparatively minor offense of using a state car and chauffeur for his sick wife.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) just won a second term despite <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/scott-desjarlais-approved_n_2140171.html">recent revelations</a> that he had sex with a patient while working as a physician and later urged her to get an abortion. Yet DesJarlais' campaign platform opposed abortion. "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life," his website stated. There’s more. According to transcripts from his 2001 divorce proceedings, released after the election, the congressman and his then-wife made a "mutual" decision for her to have two abortions while they were married.