Far be it from us to speculate what might go on within other people’s marriages, and that goes for politicians as well as private citizens. Still, we’ve got to wonder what state Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, and his wife Katherine talk about after a long day’s work.
Not business, apparently. For if they discussed work, surely Katherine Smith might have mentioned that she’d been hired as one of 19 lobbyists by Brent Stevens, the founder and chairman of P2E, the Los Angeles-based company hoping to move its shuttered casino from Bossier Parish to Slidell. If so, Gary Smith would have known of her paid rooting interest well before he cast a tie-breaking vote for Senate Bill 213 by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, in the Senate Judiciary B Committee he chairs.
But Smith told Times-Picayune | Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges prior to the Monday hearing that he had no idea.
“She didn’t tell me,” he said before voting to schedule a local option election, a proposal that would have died without his support but that now moves on to the full Senate for further consideration.
That smells a bit fishy, and not just to us. Among those crying foul is Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, a group that is traditionally hostile to gambling. We don’t share that view, but we also have to question whether Smith’s make-or-break vote was based on principle or familial interest.
Voters should never have to wonder. Louisiana laws may be lax on the subject, but even the possible perception of a conflict of interest should be avoided. However they communicate in the privacy of their own home, Gary Smith is the elected official in the marriage; he has an obligation to know which subject matters to sidestep in order to maintain confidence in the system’s integrity.
And if the lobbyist in the family doesn’t volunteer the information, he should ask.