​Arkansas ed department used COVID funds to buy books from a company founded by Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee (Shuttershock)

The Arkansas Department of Education just completed a six-figure deal to purchase new books for schools. However, the type of funding they are using and the founder of the book company appears to create a conflict of interest.

According to the Northwest Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, the department is set to spend $265,448 in books produced by the company, EverBright Media, founded by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). In 2020, the company initially received $245,300 to produce and distribute a booklet for kids titled "The Kids Guide to Coronavirus."

At the time, Education Secretary Johnny Key announced the book at one of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's (R) daily COVID-19 briefings.

Now, the department is spending the $265,000 to produce a revised version of it for the 2021-2022 school year. Funding for the books reportedly came from the "Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act."

Huckabee's adviser Chad Gallagher issued a statement by email on behalf of EverBright and the former governor.

The publication reports: "Huckabee is the co-founder of the company with Brad Saft, who is the CEO who oversees and runs the company. Gallagher said he serves Huckabee, Saft and EverBright as clients of his firm, Legacy Consulting."

Kimberly Mundell, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Education's Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, also noted that Key "was aware of the connection to Huckabee, who was the state's governor from 1996 to 2007."

Mundell also defended the deal in an emailed statement. "Secretary Key felt the resource guide was parent friendly and a good resource, so ADE pursued the purchase of the books," Mundell said in an email.