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Common Cause says disclosure should be expanded on gifts to lawmakers

May 8, 2012

Common Cause of Rhode Island is calling on the state Ethics Commission to expand the public’s right to know on gifts made to elected officials:

In light of recent events in Rhode Island, with expensive travel by elected officials not being reported, Common Cause requests the Ethics Commission enact a regulation requiring disclosure of any gift over $25 received by an elected official by virtue of their being an elected official. At present the Code of Ethics only requires reporting of gifts from an “interested person.”

In October of 2011 the Providence Journal reported that Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggierio received a trip to Argentina at the expense of the Senate Presidents’ Forum. Again in January 2012 it was reported that the Senate Presidents Forum partially paid for the travel of three members of the Senate to Key West, Florida, including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. More recently, a Common Cause complaint to the IRS under the Tax Whistleblower Act alleges that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been providing free travel for legislators to conferences that are being used for lobbying.

Common Cause’s John Marion says the Irons case, which currently keeps the Ethics Commission from policing the General Assembly, doesn’t preclude the panel from expanding its disclosure requirements.

Rhode Islanders have a right to know who is trying to influence their public officials. Without a complete picture of the flow of influence, citizens cannot fully determine who is behind the laws that govern them. With this proposed rule, Common Cause seeks to help shine further light on who is trying to influence our government.

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