Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Huck and grubbing

Gov. Huckabee and his friends have had to be reminded too often that, whatever good you do, public service should never be an opportunity for private gain.

After first the Arkansas Times and then the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette made an issue of it, the official state Web site of the Governorís Mansion has stopped selling goods for the profit of the private association of Huckabee friends that seeks to make the mansion a fancier dwelling for the first family.
They stopped selling the goods, the governorís office explained, not because of questions about the ethics of it but because sales had been poor. The Web site was seeking to sell books by the governor and music CDs recorded by Huckabee and a friend who receives a high state salary for administering the mansion. Some of the same goods also have been for sale in the mansionís gift shop.

A legislative audit questioned the legality of state property being used to hustle money for any private association or people.

Legislative auditors also questioned the mansion administratorís paying members of his family $3,375 from tax receipts for ďcontract laborĒ at social events at the mansion. Spokesmen for the governor first said family members submitted low bids for the work but later withdrew that explanation.
This is penny-ante stuff compared with the first familyís heavy use of the mansionís appropriated funds for personal items before the Arkansas Times nailed them several years ago. Now we donít know how the funds are used.

Neither Gov. Huckabee nor his friends are getting rich off these enterprising little gambits, but public officials set an example of high probity in the use of money set aside for the official quarters, for official travel and entertainment and the private gifts they accept. We remember when Dale Bumpers was governor, political opponents suggested that Bumpers might be using mansion funds for personal items. It turned out that he had kept a ledger and receipts for every dime. A dogged Associated Press reporter chased down one questionable item, a few bucks for a gift. It had gone to, yes, an orphanage.