The following is a statement from Mike McNeill, owner of Magnolia Reporter LLC, and publisher and editor of magnoliareporter.com:
On the afternoon of Thursday, May 12, magnoliareporter.com received a message from the campaign of Arkansas State Senate candidate Steve Crowell of Magnolia. The message expressed concern about a mail piece paid for by a group called Truth in Politics 2 IEC on behalf of State Sen. Charles Beckham of McNeil.
Beckham and Crowell are both Republicans, and the only candidates for the District 3 seat in the Arkansas Senate. The Tuesday, May 24 primary will determine which man will serve a four-year term in the State Senate.
One side of the mail piece features a photograph of Beckham and some of his endorsements.
The other side of the mailer features the magnoliareporter.com logo, and a headline photo and photo caption from an article written by J.D. Bailey for magnoliareporter.com, published on October 26, 2021.
The rest of the Beckham mailer claims that Crowell, a member of the Magnolia City Council, got a “sweetheart” deal through which his wife purchased city-owned property formerly used as the Magnolia Regional Medical Center Home Health Clinic at 833 N. Washington. The clinic was, for many years prior, the home of former Magnolia Chamber of Commerce director and First National Bank president W.C. Blewster and his wife, Agnes.
Laura Crowell wanted to buy the house for future use by her financial investment adviser company.
The Beckham mailer mischaracterizes the sale as a “sweetheart real estate deal from the city council.”
magnoliareporter.com has covered the details of the sale at length, including actions that the Magnolia City Council took to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the sale. The city gave any interested party three weeks to make bids on it but ultimately, there were only two. The Crowell bid of $70,000 was $40,000 higher than the second-place bid.
“I cannot allow the name, image or likeness of magnoliareporter.com to be used to mischaracterize or misinform the voters of South Arkansas about any issue or candidate. The Beckham campaign mailer does this, and voters and media in District 3 must hold the Beckham campaign accountable,” said McNeill.
Later Thursday evening, McNeill, on behalf of Magnolia Reporter LLC, sent Beckham a text message, email and Facebook messages making three demands of his campaign, and of Truth in Politics 2 IEC, for immediate action.
The demand letter from Magnolia Reporter LLC to the Beckham campaign said in part:
“First, the Charles Beckham for Senate campaign and Truth in Politics 2 IEC, and any associated efforts, will stop all use of the Magnolia Reporter logo, photographs or text. This material is copyrighted, and I hold you, your campaign and Truth in Politics 2 IEC in violation of our copyright.
“Second, Magnolia Reporter LLC demands any unmailed copies of the offending mail piece be destroyed immediately, and this or any future mailings that may already be enroute to the United States Postal Service be recalled and destroyed.
“Third, Magnolia Reporter LLC wants a written apology from you and your campaign, and from Truth in Politics 2 IEC, for this unauthorized use.
“I further demand that the actions required above take place by noon Friday, May 13, 2022,” McNeill’s letter said.
Late Friday morning, Beckham sent the following email to magnoliareporter.com
“The Charles Beckham for State Senate Campaign is in compliance with Ark. Code Ann § 7-6-201 Section (11)(B) and (C) and the Arkansas Ethics Commission’s Rules on Independent Expenditure Committee § 700 (c), candidates or any authorized committee or agent of the candidate are prohibited from arrangement, cooperation, or consultation with the independent expenditure committee,” the email said.
"Blaming a so-called independent committee for the mailer is the 'it wasn't me, it was my evil twin' excuse," McNeill said. McNeill said he considers the Beckham email to be a non-response and that Magnolia Reporter LLC’s demands still stand.