November 2, 2007

Can't Teach Old Legislators New Tricks

Marc Comtois

Comrade Donnis shine's the light on a bad veto-override:

Justice Brandeis famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. So it is with campaign donations and the public's ability to scrutinize them.

If people know who and what is funding their lawmakers, it makes it that much easier to guard against criminal behavior and garden-variety conflicts of interest. The public has an interest in public officials knowing that this information is publicly available.

That's why the General Assembly made a bad move by reducing the number of Rhode Island politicians who need to file fundraising and campaign spending reports.

The claim is that too many of the older legislators just ain't computer savvy enough to work them newfangled computers and file campaign donations electronically. Right. Rep. Nick Gorham:
“I don’t really think the issue is about protecting the elderly here....There are people in this room that just don’t want the data in that kind of format with the Board of Elections, where the public will be able to more easily access it …because our history has been to oppose such things; the history of the party in control has been to oppose public information on campaign finance. That’s too bad.”
But entirely predictable.

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Why, if these reports are made available on paper to those who request, does Operation Clean Government not take the paper copies, scan them in, and post them online?

If the government is going to work against it maybe we should work to thwart their efforts.

Posted by: Greg at November 2, 2007 6:59 PM

Dear Greg,

The RIBOE already does that.

The question here is the following: Is the public interest better served by "instant access" or by "4 day access".

There is a very good argument for "instant access."

If you wait for OCG to do it, now it becomes "8 day access". Not any fault of theirs, just the logistics of the whole thing. (Unless of course they stake some one out at the BOE waiting for the mail. That's a lot to ask of any organization.)

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 2, 2007 7:12 PM

Of course, by giving tax cuts to the upper echelons of income-earners, we're just adding fuel to the fire.

It's not money: it's power. And the more money those at the top have, the more corrupt our system becomes.

Tax cuts supply the rope they use to hang us with. Tax cuts provide the money that the legislators don't have to report. Can you figure that out?

Posted by: klaus at November 2, 2007 8:13 PM

Yeah, yeah. I can either afford to feed my family or I can have clean government but not both.

Posted by: Greg at November 2, 2007 9:12 PM

Actually, in Rhode Island, Greg, it's not clear that you can have either.

Is it me or has there been a steady slide of stuff like this under Bill Murphy? Refusal to implement SOP being the most egregious but a lot of other smaller items like this.

Posted by: Monique at November 2, 2007 10:10 PM

I thought Bobby O was banned from this blog for not playing nice. He is one of the few who has not completely abandoned the Jerry Springer Show over at RI Future.

Posted by: Red at November 2, 2007 10:33 PM

The people of West Warwick who send clowns like Murphy and Alves to Smith Hill don't give a bleep about this stuff.
We can complain about all this stuff all we want, but the people who can actually do something about it just won't listen.

Posted by: rhody at November 2, 2007 10:58 PM


You are correct, but Bobby's comment has been noted and deemed reasonable.

Bobby, Consider yourself on AR Comment Parole thanks to some "compassionate" (at least for now) conservatives.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at November 2, 2007 11:29 PM

Dear Marc,



What are you talking about??


What do you think is left undone on SOP??

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 3, 2007 11:14 AM

Bobby, Bill Murphy and the Democrat leadership has yet to release from legislative control three lucrative, job-rich public agencies: the Lottery, CRMC and RIRRC. Appointments to those agencies, pursuant to SOP which is now law, must be made by the Governor, not the Legislature.

Posted by: Monique at November 3, 2007 11:59 AM


Right you are! Murphy is as bad a House Speaker as we've seen in quite awhile. He's very sneaky and underhanded yet has no accomplishments to his name despite being the powerful pol in the entire state. Most troubling with this sham that is SOP is how the governor has absolutely no recourse because we have a state Supreme Court just as involved in the power grab from the Executive branch as the legislature is. Entire system is corrupt through and through.
Recall that Looney Frank Williams is granted permission to build his new castles through a legislative kiss. That kiss is offered up with expectations of reciprocation.
Nothing done in the legislature comes without a price tag. Nothing! Frank builds his monuments to himself and the legislature gets SOP protection from his court. Welcome to Rhode Island!

Posted by: Tim at November 3, 2007 1:03 PM

Dear Monique,

There's a reason for that. A reason that was brought out by Bill Conley, Kevin McKenna and little ole me during testimony on the House version (the version that passed)

All 3 have more than Executive functions. All 3 have Legislative functions. CRMC has an adjudication function, like the BOE, as well.

Are you suggesting removing the Legislative functions in order to comply? If it's going to be solely the purview of the Executive, it cannot have any Legislative or Adjudicative functions at all. If it does, it still fails to comply, just in the Executive's favor.

(By the way, this is a total aside, if Don Carcieri took a recess appointment to job x in Washington, and Liz Roberts become Governor, what it change your mind??)


I understand you feel that way. However, I would suggest you go back and read the House testimony. You will find that all this was predicted long before the last Amendment.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 3, 2007 5:05 PM

Utter flimflammery.

If the reason the CRMC can't be moved to executive control because of its judicial functions, why is it appropriate that its appointment method is entirely under the purview of the legislature?

Bobby's response merely points to the faulty approach to separation of powers that our one-party aristocracy promulgates (with a healthy dose of smoke and mirrors). Whatever the powers of a given committee or council, the governance of it can be separated across the branches: e.g., the legislature sets the legal guidelines for it, the executive nominates and appoints those who make it up, and its decisions can be appealed to the judiciary.

What the powers that be wish to accomplish is the transformation of SOP into a set of rules that serve to disguise the fact that all of the power is consolidated regardless of which branch holds a particular privilege.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 3, 2007 5:27 PM

Dear Justin,

No one said it ways. I once proposed in a meeting with a few members of the House of electing the CRMC, in order to avoid all the problems, to staggered terms. Nobody in the group really liked the idea.

The problem with your second point is this: It was Rep. Gorham's Bill. He and leader Watson signed off on every change right up to the last one. (The "equal" language was anti-Madisonian and therefore rejected.)

Your third paragraph also fails under Madison. The Executive Branch, mostly since we had experience with a king and Washington had pointed out the problems with him being named "Emperor" combined with the Hanson experience, is always designed in every government, Texas is an extreme example, to be the weakest. Our experience is no different.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 4, 2007 10:23 AM

There's no problem with my second point. For the most part, Rhode Island's elected Republicans are a let-me-sit-at-the-table subbranch of the aforesaid aristocracy.

Regarding the rest, I don't think you understood my point. Separation of powers isn't important with respect to what sorts of activities a given committee or council performs, but how it is governed --- by which branch.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 4, 2007 11:01 AM

Dear Justin,

I wonder how Gorham would react if you said that to him in front of others. I wonder if it would cause something to stir in him.

On your second point, I see you more clearly now.

If we were really going to be honest about the whole deal:

1.) We would Amend our Constitution to undue one man/ one vote with regards to the Senate so we could stagger terms and configurations.

2.) We would whole heartedly redesign CRMC, BOE and the Lottery Commission to make them more user friendly.

However, when I suggest this among friends, it gets yawns.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 4, 2007 11:08 AM
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