July 6, 2009

RI Supreme Court's Trivialization of Ethics

Marc Comtois

We've discussed the recent ruling by the RI Supreme Court that undermines a big stick in the RI Ethics Commissions arsenal. WRNI's Scott McKay offers a good example of the cognitive dissonance displayed:

[W]hat can one say about a commission that slaps a governor for attending a professional football game but allows a state senator to vote with impunity on behalf of the interests of insurance clients whop have paid him thousands of dollars[?]...Governor Donald Carcieri was sanctioned by the Ethics Commission for going to a New England Patriot's game on banker's ticket. Not ten games, not a playoff game, not the Super Bowl, just one regular season game. By contrast, former state Senate President William Irons collected thousands of dollars in insurance commissions from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island the CVS Pharmacy chain. Then he voted in favor of legislation pushed by CVS and Blue Cross at the State House.....the high court has reduced the Ethics Commission's power to a game of trivial pursuit, allowing prosecutions of free football tickets and gift baskets, while shielding legislators from conflict-of-interest charges when they vote in the interests of a private business client.

The Supreme Court did say that voters could enact a new amendment to clarify this mess. Don't hold your breath waiting for the powers on Smith Hill to act.

No kidding. Looks like another instance where Rhode Island voters will have to take the populist route to get a ballot initiative to clearly express what should be manifestly obvious to our political class, including our Supreme Court Justices.

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How many of these judges are former reps or senators? How many of these guys donate to legislative campaigns or have their family do so for them? Isn't it the GA who is responsible for their pay, pension and other benefits?

Posted by: kathy at July 6, 2009 10:54 AM

The RI Supreme Court is a total JOKE!!!

Check out RISupremeCourt.com for more info on this "distinguished" Judiciary!

Been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt!

Justice in RI is an oxymoron......

Posted by: Aldo at July 6, 2009 11:40 AM

You edited out my favorite line, where Scott McKay says, "no really, this isn't a joke" or something similar!

Posted by: Davidc at July 6, 2009 11:52 AM

Re: Carcieri, not only was it a regular season Patriots game, but he was there to lobby Fidelity to bring jobs to RI. And what was that recent Fidelity news? Additional jobs being relocated to Smithfield? So the Governor was dinged by the Ethics Commission *for doing his job*, for helping the state of RI, yet these scumbags go on the private dole and get away with it? Scumbags.

Posted by: Patrick at July 6, 2009 1:02 PM

"Isn't it the GA who is responsible for their pay, pension and other benefits?"

Now there's an interesting point.

A couple of years ago, the G.A. permitted the judiciary to have budgetary independence. But presumably, what the G.A. giveth, the G.A. can taketh away. Was that on the minds of the three justices who ruled the wrong way?

Posted by: Monique at July 6, 2009 9:05 PM
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