Did I miss something?
After reading Scott MacKay’s recent commentary, “Don't Expect RI Ethics Rules Will Change Anything on Smith Hill,” I can’t tell if MacKay has given up on improving the state, or if he really believes that our legislators, left to monitor themselves, will dissuade corruption as well as independent oversight.
The discussion centers on an effort to restore legislative oversight authority of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.
If you don’t know the history, in a nutshell, the people of Rhode Island created the Ethics Commissions during the 1986 Constitutional Convention, and it worked quite well providing advice to avoid conflicts of interest, and investigating and prosecuting ethics violations when they occurred.
But when the Commission had a series of successful investigations, resulting in two legislators paying 6-figure fines and spending time in jail, a related case against then-Senate President Irons resulted in a court case which ultimately stripped the commission of its powers due to what some would call a technicality.
So for the last seven years, good government groups and the legislature have been working to resolve those issues.
But Mr. MacKay suggests that an independent oversight of the general assembly is a worthless pursuit saying, “history shows that many of these measures don’t mean much,” even citing the Separation of Powers Constitutional Amendment as his “prime example.”
His argument is almost laughable, if it weren’t so dangerous.
Rhode Island has a history of corruption, and expecting the fox to watch the hen house is a recipe for disaster. Don’t we have one Fox in jail already?
As Chairman of the Rhode Island Libertarian Party, we strongly support restoring ethics commission oversight. We are part of the CLEAN RI coalition, the Coalition for Legislative Ethics and Accountability Now in Rhode Island (www.CleanRI.org). We sit at the table with groups like the RI Progressive Democrats, WatchDog RI, & Rhode Island Taxpayers. Occupy Providence & Ocean State Tea Party In Action. Community Leaders Allan Hassenfeld, Phil West, & Karl Wadensten. Indy Media Outfits RIFuture.org, and of course The Coalition Talk Radio.
At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, both legislators and advocates spoke of an agreement to reinstate those oversight powers, they just need to resolve the procedural questions.
Scott MacKay seems to be the only one who thinks it’s a waste of time. House Speaker Mattiello is the only other person I’ve heard express this negative opinion. I’ll let you decide what that means.
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