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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Real but sensible ethics reform

One thing missing in all the justifiable calls for an overhaul of the state ethics law is the fact the current statute has a few provisions that really can leave you scratching your head.

Taking $10,000 in cash as a "personal" gesture from a "friend"
who also happens to do business with the state is OK, according to the Ethics Commission.

Accepting a box of cigars and a floral arrangement as a peace offering from a political rival is not.

Public officials have long complained Chapter 268A of the general laws can be hard to navigate and the state Ethics Commission snags them on niggling things. It is hard to get up a lot of sympathy for most of those complaints. The law is simply the cost of doing the public's business.

But the contrast in the apparently legality between Dianne Wilkerson accepting cash and the apparent impropriety of Speaker Robert DeLeo accepting a box of cigars from Deval Patrick is enough to get you to take notice.

I'd hate to think significant reforms of the law, like giving the commission subpoena power so it can rightly adjudicate serious issues may fall by the wayside because Senate President Terry Murray felt she had to insist on her chamber's commission-gutting version of the bill because of Patrick's bouquet.

Mend it. Don't end it. And above all, make it rational.

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