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Martha Shoffner (1944–)

Martha Shoffner was the Arkansas state treasurer from 2007 until she was forced to resign from office after an arrest on federal charges of extortion and bribery in May 2013. After being found guilty on multiple counts in March 2014, she began serving a thirty-month prison sentence in November 2015.

Martha Shoffner was born on July 10, 1944, in Jackson County. One of two daughters of James Edwin Shoffner and Helen Deaton Shoffner, she was raised in Jackson County. After she graduated from Newport High School, she attended Memphis State University and Arkansas State University; she did not earn a degree.

Shoffner began work in the private sector, first joining a Little Rock (Pulaski County) advertising firm. In addition, she did sales and marketing work for Storer Cable. She also briefly operated a business, Miss Martha’s Tamales. She later got a real estate license and worked for Sink Realty in Newport (Jackson County).

Shoffner had long been interested in politics, having interned in the office of Governor Orval Faubus, and she left a longtime job to work on the unsuccessful 1990 gubernatorial campaign of Sheffield Nelson, a Republican. She also served for two years as an assistant to the state auditor Julia Hughes Jones, who was then a Democrat.

In 1996, two years after an unsuccessful candidacy, Shoffner won election to the Arkansas House of Representatives as a Democrat, serving from 1997 until 2003. During her time in the House, Shoffner chaired the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. She also served as vice chair of the ALC-JBC Budget Hearings Committee, the Joint Budget Committee, the Joint Performance Review Committee, and the Committee on Public Transportation, as well as the Subcommittee on Waterways and Aeronautics. Ending her House career due to term limits, she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for state auditor in 2002.

In 2006, Shoffner made another run at state office. This time, after winning the Democratic nomination, she was elected state treasurer, winning almost sixty percent of the vote. She was reelected with 67.5 percent in 2010. As part of her responsibilities as state treasurer, she served as a member of many state boards, including the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS), the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System (ATRS), the Arkansas Rural Endowment Fund (AREF), the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), and the Arkansas State Highway Employees Retirement System (ASHERS). She also sat on the board of directors for Economics Arkansas and the State Board of Finance, and she was chair of the Arkansas 529 Plan Review Committee. Shoffner was active in a wide range of community organizations, including the Business & Professional Women’s Club and the Newport Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to her resignation as state treasurer, Shoffner’s efforts had been recognized by numerous organizations. In 1996, she was named Jackson County Woman of the Year, and she was the recipient of the Sandra Wilson Cherry Award in 2008. The winner of the Business & Professional Women’s Club 90th Gala Friends of BPW Award in 2009, Shoffner was named the Arkansas Politician of the Year by the Democratic Party in 2010.

However, in May 2013, Shoffner was arrested and charged with multiple counts of extortion and bribery. An effort to reach a plea agreement was unsuccessful when Shoffner was unwilling to admit to certain elements of her alleged crimes, a response that led Judge Leon Holmes to refuse to accept her guilty plea. Consequently, she went on trial in March 2014, and on March 11 she was found guilty on fourteen counts of bribery and extortion.

The case stemmed from a scheme in which Shoffner directed state investments to Steele Stephens, a broker with St. Bernard Financial, who paid her over $36,000 for her efforts. An apparent imbalance in the bond inventory among brokers raised questions, and as an investigation got under way, Stephens started to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in January 2013.

In May 2013, after Stephens left Shoffner’s house having made a $6,000 payment, delivering the money in a pie box, the FBI, warrant in hand, searched the house and recovered the $6,000 as well as most of an earlier payment that Shoffner was still hiding in the house. She was arrested on May 18, 2013. Following the March 2014 trial, on August 28, 2015, she was sentenced to thirty months in prison, a sentence she began serving in Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 2, 2015. In September 2017, she returned to Little Rock to complete her sentence in a halfway house.

For additional information:
“Former Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Ann Shoffner Guilty on Federal Charges of Extortion and Receipt of Bribes.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/littlerock/press-releases/2014/former-arkansas-state-treasurer-martha-ann-shoffner-guilty-on-federal-charges-of-extortion-and-receipt-of-bribes (accessed November 17, 2017).

Friedman, Samantha. “Martha Ann Shoffner.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 18, 2007, pp. 1D, 5D.

Frye, Cathy. “Shoffner Left Family Farm for Life in Capital City.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 26, 2013, pp. 1A, 3A.

Janak, Sara. “Ex-Treasurer Martha Shoffner Sentenced to 30 Months.” Arkansas Online, August 28, 2015. http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/aug/28/former-arkansas-treasurer-martha-shoffner-be-sente/ (accessed November 17, 2017).

“Martha Ann Shoffner.” Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/Martha_Ann_Shoffner (accessed November 17, 2017).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School

Last Updated 11/17/2017

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