Janet and Mike Huckabee at the Grand Hall of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion
In 2004, an associate of a friend began a correspondence with Janet Huckabee, wife of then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. His concern at the time was that Janet Huckabee was simply too aggressive and snarky at a polling station when challenging those who did not show identification at the polls — and in some cases, sending people away when it was, in fact, their right to vote whether or not they chose to show identification.
I wrote about the situation in October 2004 and thought that even though the Arkansas First Lady might not have known that voters were not required to show identification at the polls, her aggressive behavior seemed to some to be more hostile towards voting participation than inclusive.
The email correspondence below also refers to some “charity waitressing” that Janet Huckabee did at a Waffle House. While former First Lady Huckabee does make clear her high regard for those working at Waffle House, the citizen who was writing these emails was disturbed that there was no acknowledgment by the Huckabees or others that Waffle House staff were working for bare bottom wages and had no health care.
The next exchange deals with the Huckabee First Couple registering at a wedding registry with Target Department Stores and Dillard’s for friends attending their farewell party at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Janet Huckabee took dramatic exception to the right of the press or of citizens to raise questions about this strange incident.
While this practice by the Huckabees may seem odd and inappropriate to many Americans, it was also something that Bill and Hillary Clinton did when leaving the Governor’s Mansion. Well, not exactly. As I understand it, the Clintons welcomed gifts — but they didn’t register at Target.
In any case, the exchanges reveal something about ‘temperament’ and seem relevant to the Huckabee bid for the White House.
The correspondence begins with Nancy Bingham, personal assistant to the then Arkansas First Lady.
Janet Huckabee then takes over the long-running correspondence herself.
I have blocked the name and email address of the person who had the exchanges with Janet Huckabee and her staff, but I am leaving the time stamps on the emails so that any interested parties can confirm their authenticity through freedom of information act inquiries.
The first email I have acquired raises questions about the appropriateness of Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee serving at a voting polling station — where she later kept challenging the identities and voting rights of many who came to the polling station — reportedly African-Americans for the most part.
From Arkansas Citizen to Nancy Bingham, Personal Assistant to Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee, 19 October 2004:
10/19/2004 09:37 AM
Dear Ms. Bingham,
As a citizen of the State of Arkansas, would you please pass on to the first lady that I believe it hugely inappropriate for her to be volunteering at a polling station. Serving at the position that she does, surely she can see the conflict of interest.
Perhaps the first lady might do better to volunteer with a local charity or some other worthy cause. If not, perhaps the Waffle House might have her back?
From Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee to Arkansas Citizen, 19 October 2004:
Subject: Re: Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 14:21:16 -0500
I received your e-mail concerning my working at the polls. I am sure that you understand that if I can pay taxes and serve on a jury, I certainly can work on the polls. I , by the way, volunteer at several charities and the Waffle House has already said they would give me a job.
So, I guess the question for you is what is my conflict of interest? I am not an office holder, I don’t get paid by the state and I am not a criminal. I don’t see your point, but thanks for your e-mail of concern.
– – Nancy Bingham
– – To: First Lady/Governor’s Office@Governor’s Office
– – 10/19/2004 10:06 AM
Then in November 2006, when Mike and Janet Huckabee were leaving office and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, they hosted a party and registered under a “wedding registry” so that friends could buy them farewell gifts.
The person who had the email exchange with Janet Huckabee over the polling station had another exchange of correspondence with the then First Lady.
Note from Arkansas Citizen to Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee, 15 November 2006:
Subject: Re: Gift Giving.
11/15/2006 04:04 PM
Dear First Lady,
I find your recent foray into the world of freebies not only tacky, but very disheartening. Is this proper behavior or the sitting governor and his wife?
I think not.
Of course a small, intimate house-warming would be fine, asking for things such as the ever-handy cork-screw or the new toaster. But asking for things in this number and in this manner (for the world to see), well, I think you might have crossed a line.
If your family honestly needs these home accoutrements, perhaps a part-time, no-health insurance job might be in order. Do I smell Waffle-House?
Please reconsider, for the dignity of the state.
Here is the interesting, somewhat defensive response from Janet Huckabee about the wedding registry affair. Note that she copies her husband, Governor Mike Huckabee, on her response.
Note from Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee to Arkansas Citizen, 16 November 2006:
Subject: Re: Gift Giving.
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 09:29:23
I am not asking for freebies and I am sure that I can buy anything that I want. You, as most of the so called journalists, have stirred up and boat load of untruths and trouble. If it were just me that these articles are attacking it would be one thing, but when my family, my children, my mother and my friends who love me see read and hear these things it hurts.
Perhaps you don’t understand invitation only. It was for a select few through an invitation, not the public. For you to call me tacky and to say I am displaying improper behavior is the true disheartening part.
You don’t even know what is going on, you merely take a blog or article and make your nasty remarks. How sad is that?
As far as the part time no health insurance job goes, why would I want that? I have been working full time, with health insurance, since July.
So again , you don’t know what you are talking about. My last thought with you on this is simple. How dare you insult some one who is working at the Waffle House? They have far more class than you and I would be honored to work with them, share a meal with them, or have them over to the Governor’s Mansion for dinner long before you would be invited. They and I have class, not you.
I should note that I respect Janet Huckabee’s proclivity to respond to constituent emails. There may be more to these stories than that which of I am aware, and I would be more than happy to run any serious response to this commentary from her — on both The Washington Note and Huffington Post.
But until then, the best registries in town are Crate & Barrell, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and yes — Target, over at Potomac Yard.
— Steve Clemons