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story.lead_photo.caption Secretary of State Mark Martin - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Secretary of State Mark Martin has formed a nonprofit corporation called the Arkansas Foreign Affairs Roundtable that he said will strive to educate people in the state about foreign affairs.

Earlier this month, Martin, a Republican from Prairie Grove, filed the roundtable's incorporation papers with his office under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, according to records in Martin's office. The papers listed Martin as the nonprofit's incorporator/organizer.

Martin, an engineer, is barred from seeking re-election next year under the state's term-limits constitutional amendment. Martin said he was going to do "something else besides politics [after] next year."

His term ends in January 2019. He has served as secretary of state since 2011. He was initially elected to the post in 2010 and then re-elected in 2014. He previously served in the state House of Representatives, from 2005-11.

Martin said the aim of his nonprofit would be to help Arkansans be more aware of multitrack diplomacy, be more involved in foreign affairs and learn how to foster relationships overseas. He said he would like the nonprofit to do such things as train speakers and organize get-togethers, but his plans for it are in the embryonic stage. He said its activities initially "will be coming out of my own pocket" because he doesn't have any funding sources lined up.

Martin has shown an interest in foreign affairs as a state lawmaker and secretary of state, as he traveled overseas in both jobs.

Five months ago, legislative auditors questioned a Martin trip, led by a U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy secretary, in November 2015 to explore export opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.

In June, Arkansas Legislative Audit said Martin and his then-deputy secretary of state, Joseph Wood, took the trip costing $8,380 as part of a USDA trade mission. Legislative auditors said the trip didn't appear to be within the scope of the secretary of state's duties.

Martin's office countered that for the Legislature to make that determination "is in direct violation of the separation of powers clause of the [Arkansas] Constitution," and Martin and Wood's trip to Ghana included numerous opportunities to promote Arkansas agriculture, including chicken production.

In April 2016, Martin amended his annual personal financial disclosure report to show that four foreign and state entities paid more than $20,800 in food, lodging and travel expenses for his trips to China, Ghana, Taiwan and New Orleans in 2015.

The amendments to his disclosure reports fixed what his spokesman described as "an oversight." Martin filed the amendments after this newspaper asked who paid for part of Martin's expenses on his trips to Ghana and Taiwan in 2015.

The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Affairs of Beijing paid $9,000 for Martin's trip from May 30-June 7, 2015, to China. The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taipei City, Taiwan, paid $6,000 for Martin's trip to Taiwan from April 18-26, 2015.

The Volta Regional Coordinating Council of Accra, Ghana, paid $3,775 for Martin's trip to Ghana from March 14-23, 2015. The Information Network of Arkansas of Little Rock paid $2,066.46 for air transportation, hotel and award reception for Martin's trip in New Orleans from Sept. 25-26, 2015.

In 2013, Martin reported receiving two overseas trips totaling more than $11,000 paid for by two groups. The Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians of Houston covered the $3,300 cost for Martin to attend the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention for Diplomatic Relations from May 24-June 3, 2013, and South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid $8,324 for his trip there from Nov. 11-15, 2013.

In 2011, Martin reported an $8,000 trip from Sept. 26-Oct. 3, paid for by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and Martin was part of a delegation formed by the National Association of Secretaries of State.

In 2008, Martin attended a conference in Turkey from June 5-16 that was paid for by the Institute for International Dialogue of Little Rock for what he reported to be an unknown cost. The institute is a nonprofit with the goal of helping bring together communities to promote compassion, cooperation, partnership and cmmunity service through interfaith dialogue and conversation.

SundayMonday on 11/27/2017

Print Headline: Martin forms foreign affairs nonprofit; Term-limited secretary of state says he wants to promote diplomacy, education

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