It’s a high-falutin’ name…the Government Accountability Board….which was created by the state legislature in 2007, partly as reaction to the public’s disgust with the constant corruption being exposed at the capitol, and partly because even the politicians admitted there wasn’t much in the way of oversight going on up there at the top of State Street.
The board is made up of six retired trial judges, and this week they’re talking about putting some more teeth into what’s been a pretty docile tiger since its inception.
One of the items on their docket is a proposed new law that would ban legislative staff members from doing campaign work on state time. You say - wait a minute - don’t we HAVE that already? Isn’t that the tip of the iceberg that brought down crooked politicians like Chuck Chvala and Scooter Jensen? Nope. Insiders know that when they got caught using state staffers to do their political and re-election work, they “rearranged the furniture” a bit, but didn’t make any substantive changes. And one of these days, Scooter may even actually go to jail. He was found guilty on corruption charges on March 11, 2006, and is still walking around free, getting extension after extension with his high-priced legal talent.
Here’s another “bold” move from the board…they want to ban state lawmakers from working as lobbyists for at least a year after leaving office (gosh - a year???? A full year???) and set up the same rules for state regulators, who would have to wait a full year before they could go to work in the industry they were “regulating” for us. How about….just a modest suggestion here….a TEN-year ban on both politicians who want to become lobbyists, and regulators who want to switch to the private sector in the same industry.
They’re also talking about new rules that would bar lobbyists from bundling their campaign donations to candidates, and limiting when PAC’s can donate to candidates. It just looks so bad when they throw these huge booze-and-gourmet food-at-expensive-restaurant soirees for the politicians while they’re actually in session.
Oh, and another thing….the board wants more leeway in making public the findings of stuff it’s investigating. Far as I’m concerned, the more daylight, the more disclosure, the better. How about “everything the board does or investigates is open to the public unless a small committee of active judges decides it’s best to keep it under wraps for a little while longer”.
I know, I have radical ideas. Too many years of my life spent in the news business, I guess. Heaven forfend the people should actually KNOW what their government is doing.