Pragmatism has paid off for Huckabee

Most came in 1999, the year after Huckabee won election in his own right — individual items totaling just more than $92,000, according to the records. That included a $23,000 "inaugural wardrobe" for first lady Janet Huckabee, courtesy of the inaugural committee; the gowns were later donated to a state museum, a tradition in Arkansas.

Other gifts included clothes, football tickets, dental care, jewelry, gift cards and air transportation to Republican events in Arkansas and other states.

In succeeding years, Huckabee declared a series of gifts ranging from $2,495 to $9,185.52 per year. Such gifts are legal in Arkansas as long as they are disclosed and are not payment for a specific action.

Gifts were at the heart of 20 proceedings before the Arkansas Ethics Commission covering Huckabee's years as lieutenant governor and governor. It found violations of various degrees in six cases, including failure to declare income stemming from use of a Cessna airplane and the donation of a stadium blanket to Janet Huckabee.

As he left office, Huckabee and his wife set up a wedding registry at two local department stores for gifts at their house. Huckabee told reporters that his wife's friends "wanted to do something for her," and that they set up a wedding registry because there was no category for housewarming gifts.

Gift acceptances declined in recent years, after rule changes by the ethics commission. Huckabee attorney Kevin Crass said the governor complied with the law, and "once the rules changed, his approach changed."

•Pardons and commutations. Gov. Huckabee recommended more than 1,000 pardons and commutations of prison sentences, according to a review of governor's records.

The most infamous involved Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who killed a woman in Missouri after his release on parole. Huckabee supported his release, and the matter became an issue against him during his 2002 bid for re-election. Having carried 60% of the vote in 1998, Huckabee won more narrowly four years later with 53%.

Keith Emis, a Republican businessman near Fayetteville, has posted a video on the DuMond case to a website called huckabeefacts.com. "A man who makes that kind of judgment as governor is not someone I want as president," he said.

Huckabee reviewed each parole request carefully, former aide Rex Nelson said. The "easy political thing for any governor to do would be to say, 'No, no, no,' " Nelson said.

Sanders devoted a recent column to the case of Eugene Fields, who received a commutation for a DUI sentence in April 2004. The previous summer, his wife made a pair of $5,000 contributions to the Republican Party of Arkansas. Huckabee's campaign said there was no connection.

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