Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Well, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve had some web site glitches for a few weeks. Apparently, we were a threat to the Chinese and a hacking virus was unleashed on us.

Now, we’re back with the new and improved www.talkbusiness.net. You’ll find a lot of the great features you loved on our old site, especially our breaking business and political news content. In our rotating banners, we’ll feature certain stories that we think have particular relevance.

We’d also point out our contributors’ section, which will evolve throughout the weeks. A number of our Talk Business content partners and contributors are featured in this mid-section of the web site. We’ve got several additional folks coming on board so be sure to frequently check for new faces. You may also want to check out our blog roll on the bottom right-hand side of the site for new Arkansas blogs that we find insightful for news and opinion.

I single out one partner in particular, Jason Tolbert of The Tolbert Report, for his help during the interim when our web site went down. Jason helped us set up a short-term blog (you're on it right now) to keep our daily news feed going while we constructed the new site. Jason, many thanks to you!

For now, enjoy the new site and keep your eyes open for new developments and features during the next few weeks. Also, we’d welcome your feedback – positive and negative – as we’ve held off on some changes until we hear from you. Drop me an email at roby@talkbusiness.net to share your comments or to ask questions, especially if you’re having trouble reading sections of the site.

Have a busy and productive week. We hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, April 5, 2010


For those hit hardest in the recession, federal unemployment benefits have come to a close, for now.

Congress recessed a week ago without extending jobless benefits, federal health insurance subsidies and certain tax breaks. The state of Arkansas is not in a financial condition to pick up the feds’ slack.

John Lyon with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau, reports:

The federal government’s contributions to COBRA, the program that allows laid-off workers to remain on their former employers’ insurance plans for a limited time, expired Wednesday.

“We can’t control what Congress does, and we can’t replace those benefits ourselves,” said Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe’s office.

“But we are telling people that are calling with concerns to keep those claims open. Congress comes back a week after these expire, so there is a possibility that additional action could be taken when they return on the 12th,” DeCample said.

You can read the full story at this link.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


This week on Talk Business, prolific bloggers Jason Tolbert and Blake Rutherford offered assessments on the U.S. Senate primaries heating up in Arkansas.

Rutherford, a Democrat, said that the epic battle between incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln and challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, still favors Lincoln. However, Rutherford proclaimed momentum on Halter’s side.

“I think what we’ve seen from public polls is that while he (Halter) maintains a deficit, he’s on an upward trajectory,” said Rutherford. “His favorables are growing at a remarkable rate. It seems that the more voters learn about him, the more that they like.”

Rutherford also thinks that this year’s Senate election is a referendum on Blanche Lincoln, whether she wants it to be or not.

“This election is in many ways a referendum on Blanche Lincoln and she’s trying to make it a referendum on Bill Halter,” he said. “The polls would tell you is that the people need to hear more from Blanche Lincoln about her voting record. They need to hear more from Blanche Lincoln about why health care was good for Arkansas. They need to hear more from her about why the stimulus bill was good for Arkansas.”

Tolbert, a Republican blogger, said he expects the heat to ratchet up in the GOP Senate primary, which boasts 8 candidates.

Tolbert contends that 3rd District Cong. John Boozman is the front-runner in large part due to his strength in northwest Arkansas, where as much as 50% of the Republican primary vote will emerge.

“The thing that Boozman has in his favor is just geography. He’s going to have the 3rd District as his home-field advantage,” said Tolbert.

Tolbert also sees the race for second place shaping up between State Sen. Gilbert Baker and Jim Holt. Both of those candidates and others are jockeying for position to take on Boozman in a run-off.

“You’ve seen Gilbert Baker engage Rep. Boozman particularly on his vote on TARP,” said Tolbert. “Will it work? I’m not sure.”

You can watch the full interview at this link to our YouTube Channel.


Talk Business contributor Suzi Parker wears a lot of writing hats around the nation. Her latest article for Politics Daily offers a fairly even assessment of the 2nd Congressional District at this juncture.

Here’s the money quote from the article:

"This will be a very negative race, and I give Griffin a slight edge because he has a clearer path to a nomination over any of the Dems," says David Wasserman, an analyst at the Cook Political Report. "I think a Democrat could win a seat in Little Rock this year. The problem is, this district is more than just Little Rock. So far, Griffin has run a great campaign, but he hasn't had to take a real hit yet. And they're coming."

Personally, I still peg this general election race as a “toss-up” owing to the history of votes in the district (which lean Democrat). However, the shifting demographics in the district and current voter attitudes (which lean Republican) doesn’t allow me to chalk this race up to the historical outcome.

Wasserman is right. This general election race will be a very negative one. The front-runners on the Democratic side have voting histories and attachments to political establishments and candidates. The two Republicans bring their own baggage to the race. National and state Democratic and Republican operatives will make sure that all of the opposition research done on the ultimate primary winners is shared with all.

Click here to read the article in full.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Scott Wallace is touting a recently conducted internal poll which shows that he has a lead over his primary opponent, Tim Griffin, with a large number of voters undecided.

Wallace’s poll, conducted by his consultant’s polling firm, Diamond State Consulting Group, shows Wallace with a 31-18% lead over Griffin with 51% of GOP primary voters in the district undecided.

The poll clearly shows competition in this race as yard signs, direct mail, and retail politics have been all we’ve seen from the two candidates so far. Ultimately, this race becomes a paid media campaign for the 51% of undecided Republican voters in this battleground district.


The Arkansas revenue report for March could be categorized as “nothing to write home about.” It certainly didn’t bring good news of a rebound in process.

Net available general revenues totaled $285.2 million for the month, 4.8% below last year and virtually unchanged from forecast levels.

Gross receipts – a barometer of consumer spending – topped $161 million, 6.4% below last year and 0.9% below forecast.

Individual income taxes were down 1.6% to $194.9 million, 0.5% below forecast. Tax refunds were higher than normal levels, which was expected. Corporate income taxes were higher than predicted. Corporate taxes increased 5.2% to $51.6 million, 14% above projections.

March marks the end of the state’s third fiscal quarter. Year to date, net available general revenues were $3.15 billion. That’s 2% below last year’s levels, but 0.5% above the revised forecast made in January 2010.

What does this report tell us? In short, the economy remains groggy as consumer spending and personal incomes are bringing in slightly less than expected and considerably less than one year ago when the Arkansas economy began to take a full beating.


Although official reports are not due until April 15th, the top two Democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate primary reported a strong first quarter of fundraising.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter outpaced Lincoln by nearly two-to-one, according to figures provided by both campaigns.

Halter’s camp disclosed that more than $2 million was raised in his bid to unseat the embattled incumbent. A Lincoln spokesman tells Talk Business that the two-term Senator raised more than $1 million in the first quarter, her fifth quarter in a row of raising more than $1 million.

What did they spend it on and how much money does each candidate have in the bank? Those numbers won’t be officially released until an April 15th FEC reporting deadline. FYI, Lincoln still has a fundraising advantage, but Halter has certainly raised enough to be competitive.

Other federal office-seekers, including GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate and all four Congressional races, have been tight-lipped on their fundraising prowess.

2nd District Democratic Congressional candidate David Boling revealed that he raised more than $250,000 during the quarter and has $200,000 cash on hand. His campaign did not answer the question as to how much, if any, the candidate had loaned to his effort.

There may only be a handful of other serious fundraising successes in the field. Talk Business sources suggest that the first quarter may show less-than-impressive figures for nearly every federal office-seeker. One candidate told me this week that he felt like he ought to be writing a check to some of the contributors he was calling on for money.

My picks for above-average performers relative to the other candidates in their races: Boozman (Senate), Causey (CD-1), Wills (CD-2), Griffin (CD-2), and Womack (CD-3). I hope others prove me wrong; it’ll certainly make for a more interesting election season.


Wal-Mart said its charitable giving in the U.S. totaled more than $467 million in cash and in-kind gifts in its most recent fiscal year.

The dollar amount is an $89 million increase over the previous year’s giving. In international markets, Wal-Mart gave $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts.

Wal-Mart said its biggest increase in donations were to food banks to help those suffering in the current recession.

"We've challenged ourselves to look at ways to make long-lasting impacts in communities around the globe by funding programs that address critical needs, like hunger, education and job training," said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation. "Our business is growing and as a result we're fortunate that our charitable giving is increasing as well."

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Gov. Mike Beebe and half of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation will be in Fort Smith on Tuesday (April 6) to join in a “community celebration” and thank Mitsubishi officials for their decision to build a wind-turbine manufacturing facility at Chaffee Crossing.

Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas announced Oct. 16 it will build a $100 million wind turbine manufacturing plant on 90 acres at Fort Chaffee that will employ up to 400 once fully operational.

Construction on the 200,000-square-foot building is set to begin in early 2011. You can read more from our content partner, The City Wire, at this link.


At Smitty’s BBQ in Conway, they serve more than a mean pulled-pork sandwich.

It’s a weekly meeting place for the Faulkner County TEA Party, who on this particular Wednesday boast approximately 50 like-minded conservative activists not satisfied with the direction of the country.

David Crow is the defacto leader of the Faulkner County TEA Party this week. Crow, a well-dressed, articulate businessman, does not see his group’s efforts to engage in the political process as a short-term fad.

“I think I’m going to die fighting this fight,” Crowe tells the audience.

What’s he’s fighting?

A Washington, D.C. agenda – led by Democrats on some issues and Republicans on others - that has resulted in an expansion of government’s role in the health care system, rising national debt and nearly 10 years of deficit spending.

They are also hell-bent on holding local Conway and Faulkner County officials accountable by attending city council and quorum court meetings to object to what they consider wasteful government spending. Once a month, they hold education forums at the local library to teach interested citizens about constitutional law.

Elizabeth Sotallaro, is the web master for the group’s web site. Unlike what is sometimes portrayed in the media, she’s not a rebel-rousing, gun-toting angry conservative pining for the days of Ward and June Cleaver. She understands the modern times and simply wants a government that can live within its means.

“We’re not anti-government,” she contends. “We’re anti- ‘Big Government’.”

The crowd is a collection of retirees, businesspeople, blue-collar workers, housewives – even a 30-something preacher who rides a motorcycle.

At this week’s event, GOP Senate hopeful Cong. John Boozman is speaking. His record has come under fire from some TEA Party conservatives unimpressed with his decade-long ties to the nation’s capital.

Boozman works the crowd with ease perhaps hoping to diffuse his record of voting for deficit budgets during the Bush years, his millions of dollars in earmark requests, and his vote for the bank bailout (TARP - Troubled Asset Relief Program) in the fall of 2008.

He speaks as if he’s a D.C. outsider despite nearly nine years as the Congressman in Arkansas’ 3rd District.

“What Washington doesn’t realize – Obama and that bunch…” his message begins.

He rattles off a litany of Obama agenda items that he’s opposed: health care reform, auto industry bailouts, and the stimulus package, to name a few.

Interestingly, the subjects that have drawn fierce criticism from TEA Party activists – earmarks, deficits and bank bailouts - never arise until late in a Q-&-A session, despite Boozman speaking in challenger Gilbert Baker’s backyard of Conway.

GOP primary opponent Curtis Coleman is in the crowd this day, too, “tweeting” thoughts like: “At the Faulkner Co. TEA Party in Conway. Looking forward to hearing J. Boozman explain his unconstitutional vote for TARP.”

Boozman deflects. He once again talks about voting against the stimulus, the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, cash-for-clunkers, the current federal budget.

“What else?” he asks. A citizen interjects, “TARP!”

“I did vote for the TARP bill. What that was was loaning banks that money,” he says. “The vast majority of that has been repaid.” He noted that while none of the individual banks were too big to fail, he feared that the entire investment-banking sector was doomed to collapse without the TARP intervention.

Boozman warns the group that immigration is a likely future issue coming to Congress and he touts his opposition to amnesty not just during the Obama administration, but in the Bush years also.

“If you give 8 or 9 million people amnesty, under current law with their ability to bring in extended family, then you’re talking about probably 40 million people within 20 years,” Boozman says.

His call for establishing English as the official U.S. language brings a rousing round of applause from the audience.

Afterwards, Boozman makes himself available to this reporter and answers an essential question or two about the TEA Party and its relevance to his campaign.

He defines the movement as a group of Americans “who are tired of sitting around feeling like they’re having to take it.”

“They want to do something,” he says.

“The way I’ve voted in the past matches up very well with the conservative values that they have and also the fiscal values,” Boozman added. “The message they [Americans] are rejecting is that you can spend and borrow your way into prosperity.”


A new group of undisclosed small businesses has formed a coalition to oppose federal card check legislation among Arkansas’ candidate hopefuls.

The Coalition for Arkansas Jobs (CAJ) says its mission is “to protect jobs in Arkansas and stand up for the small businesses and workers in the state who grow the economy and create employment opportunities.” The group has the support of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Robert Coon, state director for CAJ, conducted an online interview with Talk Business, to discuss the group’s Arkansas focus which includes a candidate questionnaire for federal office-seekers.

Talk Business: Can you tell me who some of the member businesses of your coalition are?

Robert Coon: CAJ represents small businesses and workers throughout the state of Arkansas. We have recruited and mobilized small business owners throughout the state to voice their opposition to this job-killing legislation. We do not disclose our individual members and there is a reason for that. As you are aware, national labor unions are spending $4 million in Arkansas to promote their agenda this election cycle. The last thing small businesses need is Big Labor’s multi-million dollar attack machine turned on them.

TB: There has been talk from Washington that elements of EFCA are being discussed in some sort of compromise fashion. EFCA in its present form would not be pursued. Is your coalition engaged in those talks and do you see some common ground on the issue of union organization reform?

Coon: The whole idea of “compromise” on this issue is very misleading. EFCA has been introduced in 4 straight Congresses, virtually unchanged each time. Furthermore, national labor bosses continue to push for the passage of the bill in its current form. If Big Labor really wants to pursue meaningful reforms, the first step is to take EFCA, and it’s unfair provisions like card check and binding arbitration, off the table permanently.

TB: You are enlisting candidates for federal office to complete a questionnaire on EFCA. What will be the reward and punishment to those who support or oppose your group's positions?

Coon: Our mission is to educate voters on where candidates stand on this issue. We will not advocate for the election or defeat of any candidate. This is strictly an issue focused, educational organization. We strongly believe that voters have the right to know where their candidates stand on EFCA, and feel that this information will be an important factor in determining whom voters choose to support.


The latest Rasmussen Poll of 500 Arkansas voters explores the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas, but no head-to-head match-ups among Republican or Democratic primary candidates.

As we’ve seen in previous polls from this outfit, Blanche Lincoln trails badly among at least 5 GOP contenders for the office. Bill Halter fares slightly better against the Republican candidates, but still would be beat in hypothetical match-ups.

It’s a bit hard to draw conclusions on those one-on-one races other than to say that there is a strong anti-Democratic mood in the electorate. It would be more helpful to see how the Lincoln-Halter race is trending as well as the eight candidate race for the GOP nomination.

More notably, Rasmussen polled voter attitudes on health care reform.

Q: Will the health care plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama be good for the country or bad for the country?

28% Good
60% Bad
3% No impact
9% Not sure

Q: A proposal has been made to repeal the health care bill and stop it from going into effect. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose a proposal to repeal the health care bill?

55% Strongly favor
8% Somewhat favor
9% Somewhat oppose
24% Strongly oppose
4% Not sure

Public perception remains high that the health care reform measure will be bad for Arkansans. Until elected officials or government agencies can explain with greater detail the positive impact of the new changes, voters will remain skeptical of its benefits. Of course, opponents of the change only need one concrete instance of the new law’s unintended consequences to reinforce current perceptions.

You can access all of the polling questions at this link.


An interesting story from Politics Daily explores Democratic Senate hopeful Bill Halter’s use of “microtargeting” in his race against incumbent Blanche Lincoln.

Microtargeting is credited with helping re-elect George W. Bush to a second term in 2004. Although pioneered by Democrats decades ago, Republicans have perfected it in this decade.

There's nothing quiet about it anymore – and Democrats have rejoined the fray. Halter has tapped a political consultancy, Changing Targets Media, that specializes in identifying voters down to the household level, and turning them out to the polls.

"The Halter campaign is smart to do this," said Brent E. McGoldrick, a microtargeting expert who works for Financial Dynamics, a business and financial communications company. "And the Lincoln campaign would be wise to [do] something similar." McGoldrick, who has developed microtargeting and market segmentation business for political campaigns and corporate and public affairs clients, added, "This is exactly the kind of race where a campaign needs microtargeting."

You can read more about the strategy at this link.