RI Supreme Court’s Trivialization of Ethics
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.