Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Will Bond for speaker

Call us boosters and homers, but it seems important to us that Rep. Will Bond is elected speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007, a choice that the current House members probably will make tentatively this winter. It means very little of a parochial nature to the community unless Bond turned out to be as grabby with state improvement funds as state Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow, but it can mean much to the state of Arkansas.

A profile of the candidates and their fund-raising and political gifts in the Tuesday Arkansas Democrat Gazette provides fresh argument for Bondís election, if any were needed. Bondís chief competitor, Rep. Benny Petrus of Stuttgart, raised a whopping $70,000 for his re-election campaign last year, although he ran without opposition.

He explained that he kept raising funds until near the end out of fear that a write-in candidate would run against him. He took much of the cash and passed it around among other House members with races, acquiring chits for his race for speaker. It is an open question whether that is legal under the state ethics law.

Both Petrus and Bond gave money to help another House member pay the medical bills of his son; Petrus gave from his campaign fund, but Bond gave his personal money.

The newspaper article did not raise a more serious ethical problem. Petrus allowed lobbyists for the timber and gambling interests to use his Little Rock apartment during the legislative session as a hospitality suite to wine and dine lawmakers. Perhaps as speaker, Petrus would observe better decorum.

But really the ethical standards of speaker and member should be no different.

Neither should sell his public office or any manifestation of it to private interests.

Who the lawmakers elect speaker will say a lot about the primacy of the public interest in Arkansas. Let us hope that it is Will Bond.