Time For Beacon Hill Disclosure?

So, former state senator Dianne Wilkerson now says that the state ethics commission informed her, twice, that accepting cash stuffed in envelopes from people who do business before the state is fine, and does not need to be reported, as long as you don't actually do anything to help the person slipping you the money. Of course, most of the time there is almost no way anyone would ever know, because A) neither side in the transaction has to report the payoff, and B) in government, "helping" tends to happen anonymously and behind closed doors.

Anyway, this must have been quite a magnificent piece of news from the commission, from the perspective of a state legislator, and I would think word of this gaping, $10,000-wide loophole would have spread quickly. I suppose it's possible that Dianne Wilkerson selfishly kept the ruling to herself; and that no other legislators ever asked the commission the same question; and that none of the donors to whom Wilkerson presumably explained the legal assurance subsequently passed the info along to other legislators; or perhaps that no other legislator was willing to ever take free money, even under a scheme deemed legal and cleared by the ethics commission.

Or, maybe a bunch of them have taken money on the side. And very likely, they believe that they did it in perfectly acceptable ways, without any quid pro quo, without any conflict of interest. And, maybe they're right, and they don't legally have to disclose those gifts.

And maybe Sal Dimasi is right, and he legally doesn't have to turn over information that he considers part of legislative deliberation; and maybe he's right that friends doing things for him and his family, when they also represented business before the state, did not cross a line.

In other words, in all this mess and morass on Beacon Hill, maybe none of our elected officials is required to lay out for their constituents exactly what they have done.

But they should. If they believe that accepted unreported money or favors during their time in office, what they have accepted from whom, and why they believe their actions are acceptable.Beginning with Senate President (and long-time Wilkerson ally) Therese Murray, and Speaker Sal DiMasi and/or anyone who wishes to succeed him in that position. And they should call for every one of their colleagues to do so. And if they don't, the rank-and-file legislators should do it individually, even at the risk of embarrassing and infuriating their leadership.

If they will not, then they should not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt


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