- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint Friday filed against the Republican state attorney general and state treasurer alleging they campaigned for a presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on state time.

The letter issued after the commission’s meeting Friday said Treasurer Dennis Milligan and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not violate any ethics rules by traveling to Iowa in January to campaign for former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The letter from commission Director Graham Sloan said the ethics rules define a candidate campaigning for public office as specifically excluding federal office - including the presidency. Huckabee has since suspended his presidential campaign.

The complaint alleges the two flew to Iowa in the last few days of January and stayed through the first few days of February to appear at campaign events for the former Arkansas governor with at least a few days falling on regular business days of the offices. Since there is no mechanism for the constitutional officers to take official leave, Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell argued in his complaint that the appearances violated a state ethics rule that prohibits campaigning during regular state business hours.

“I was confident based on the law that the Ethics Commission would dismiss Mr. Campbell’s complaint and find no violation, which is exactly what the commission has done,” Rutledge said in an emailed statement.

In a separate emailed statement, Milligan said he expected the outcome and noted that Campbell has filed multiple ethics complaints against him.

“Mr. Campbell, a liberal Democrat blogger, has fallen short yet again in attempting to smear me politically,” he wrote.

“I am grateful to the Ethics Commission for dismissing yet another frivolous complaint against me. I have moved on from these partisan, political attacks and am focused on increasing the returns on the State’s investment.”

Campbell said he was disappointed with the Ethics Commission’s interpretation of the law because the definition of political office used in the letter applies to a different subsection of the law, he said.

“I feel like this is the type of legal analysis that a first year law student would laugh at. I feel like they went out of their way to avoid addressing the statute, or holding anyone accountable for violating it,” he said.

Campbell filed the ethics complaint that eventually led to the resignation of former lieutenant governor Mark Darr as well as the complaint that led to the former Little Rock School District Superintendent leaving under investigation that his thesis had been plagiarized. Campbell said the complaints he has filed against Milligan and Rutledge are not personal.

The Ethics Commission last month found Milligan had violated four campaign finance reporting requirements and fined him $400 after a separate complaint from Campbell.

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