October 24, 2014

Restore power to the Ethics Commission

            As a state representative and a candidate for re-election, I have long prioritized the fight for accountable and ethical government. From placing General Assembly votes online, to tax expenditure accountability, I have led the way. Lately, too many people have expressed their concerns about elected officials profiting from holding elected office. It is clear that this self service over public service has to end if we want to be an attractive place to start, move or expand a business. Ethics and transparency are key to creating a level playing field and a fair business environment.
            Ethical government starts during campaign season. Financial disclosure reports show where a candidate’s financial interests lie, and where his or her business ties are – so that there can be true accountability when that candidate becomes a representative introducing bills or asking questions in committees. Legislators must recuse themselves from voting and debating based on these self interests, and accountability for that responsibility can only happen when candidates disclose their financial interests.
            Who can we rely on to hold legislators accountable? Unfortunately, right now, no one. Our state Ethics Commission does not have the power it needs to be a pro active force for accountability instead of merely being reactive, if someone files a complaint. For example, it took a complaint filed against Stephen Tetzner, my opponent, to get him to fill out his financial disclosure report.
            This is why I support the full restoration of powers to the Ethics Commission, and will continue to fight for that no matter how long it takes.
            Once the commission has its power restored, I’ll fight to ensure it has the ability to stop candidates from filing to run if they have not met the basic requirements of paying off previous campaign finance violations, or filing the appropriate ethics disclosure forms. Providing a “clean ethics bill of health” before candidates can run will be an important first step n restoring the public’s trust, and ensuring voters have all the information needed to make the right decision in the voting booth. But that is not the end of it; we must make certain those who have been entrusted to represent the people’s interests cannot profit from state contracts or otherwise use their position to make financial gains for themselves. In the most recent case of David Caprio, a past opponent, being forced to step down from his position as state Democratic Party chairman, it was again someone from the public who discovered the potential conflict.
            My bottom line is this: More information about government and the people who want to serve in it is better. That’s why I worked with the non partisan, good-government group Common Cause to get legislator’s votes online, and will continue my work to have the search available by keywords. I am proud of the fact Common Cause gave me the second-highest ranking of all 113 reps and senators in Rhode Island.
            Cleaning up our government is crucial for our democracy and to improve our economic future. If you agree, then I respectfully ask for your vote for state representative in House District 34 Nov.4. Thank you.

Teresa Tanzi