June 20, 2007

Senator Montalbano’s Lawyer to Public: My Client’s Conflicts of Interest Are None of Your Business

Carroll Andrew Morse

This one is cute. The lawyer for Senate President Joseph Montalbano is arguing that requiring public officials to file any mandatory conflict of interest disclosure is unconstitutional. From W. Zachary Malinowski in today's Projo

[Max Wistow] has said that Montalbano’s failure to disclose the income was inadvertent, and he has raised several defenses against the other charges, including the assertion that the mandatory filing of disclosures of potential conflict of interest amounts to self-incrimination.
Senator Montalbano is the subject of eight ethics commission complaints.

Campaign finance reform laws have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the government has a compelling interest in preventing “the appearance of corruption”. It will be interesting see if the political class is able to twist the law to protect a “right” of politicians to hide their conflicts-of-interest at the same time they've used it to limit the free speech rights of regular citizens.

And one other thing: if the best defense Mr. Wistow has is trying to suppress the evidence of Senator Montalbano’s conflict-of-interest problem, doesn’t that mean the evidence must be pretty strong?

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This guy is a thug. Vote his butt out of the Senate now.
Of course, this public service announcement falls on deaf ears at the senior high-rises and those of the townies who keep voting this disgrace in.

Posted by: rhody at June 20, 2007 11:30 AM

Forget the townies and the high rises.

You might expect that they would be ignorant. What's more disturbing is that other state senators who hold respectable positions in their communities made this guy their leader.

Posted by: Anthony at June 20, 2007 2:44 PM

"the assertion that the mandatory filing of disclosures of potential conflict of interest amounts to self-incrimination."

Yes, one appreciates it when one's attorney leaves no stone unturned. However, the legal principle referenced by Mr. Wistow applies under criminal law. As I understand, Ethics Commission proceedings do not fall under criminal law.

Mr. Montalbano and Mr. Wistow should have walked past this stone. Not only is it legally irrelevant, it gives everyone unnecessary ideas as to an alternative jurisdiction that Mr. Montalbano's actions could be judged under.

Posted by: SusanD at June 20, 2007 2:58 PM

Where oh where are those indictments...?

Posted by: Greg at June 20, 2007 3:20 PM

There is nothing forcing Montalbano to disclose conflicts of interest.

He chose to reveal his conflicts of interest when he chose to run for public office just as officials in the federal executive branch chose to reveal conflicts of interest when they accepted their public jobs.

I suggest that Montalbano take a look at the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 www.usgoe.gov which is far stricter than anything. I suppose Montalbano would argue that the entire federal US Office of Government Ethics is unconstitutional as it requires federal employees to reveal conflicts?

Posted by: Anthony at June 21, 2007 6:05 AM

"He chose to reveal his conflicts of interest when he chose to run for public office"

Exactly, Anthony.

The other party at fault here is the Ethics Commission. They have the authority to deal with the complaint against Joe Montalbano - could have been well under way in doing so. But they refused to exercise that authority, needlessly allowing themselves to be intimidated by Max Wistow and his irrelevant, transparent arguments.

Do they understand that Wistow and Montalbano were pinching themselves and chortling heartily the day they made their (non)decision?

Posted by: SusanD at June 21, 2007 7:00 AM
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