Monday, March 30, 2009

Pam's Newsletter ... does it tell the whole story?

HOUSE PASSES SWEEPING ETHICS REFORM
Bill Toughens Lobbying Laws and Gives More Tools to Regulators

BOSTON-State Representative Pam Richardson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing a broad package of ethics and campaign finance reform. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, gives stronger investigatory power to the Secretary of State and State Ethics Commission, places more rigorous regulation on lobbyists, and provides for more disclosure and enforcement of campaign finance law.

"This bill proves that we take the public's concerns very seriously," said Representative Pam Richardson. "These changes are our response to the loss of public trust and confidence in government. They will go a long way toward helping us restore that trust."

Through the work of Rep. Richardson and other Members of the House, this package
expands on the work done by the Task Force on Public Integrity appointed by Governor
Patrick in November.

The bill embraces such proposals as enhancing the civil powers of the Secretary of State to enforce lobbying laws, imposes a $10,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment for violations of lobbying laws and gives the Attorney General the ability to call a statewide grand jury for inquiries into local corruption. It also addresses the area of campaign finance and it expands the power of the State Ethics Commission to regulate conflicts of interest, gifts and gratuities to public employees, requiring public officials to avoid any appearance that they can be improperly influenced.

If passed, the bill would double the disclosure requirement of legislators to file during off-election years and permit the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCFP) to refer violations of campaign finance laws directly to the Attorney General (AG). It further prohibits officials from using campaign accounts to pay fines for ethical violations and mandates electronic filing of $500 donations prior to an election contest.

The bill, announced on the same day the first representatives participated in mandatory ethics training on the House floor, passed 153 - 0.

"Too often, the public has come to see people in government playing by a different set of rules than the rest of the world. This bill - the first ethics legislation taken up by the House in 15 years -- will help restore the public's confidence in government," House Speaker DeLeo said. "In this bill, we empower those agencies charged with enforcing our ethics and campaign finance laws, increase the penalties on violators of our lobbying laws, and make elected officials subject to increased transparency and lobbying requirements. I look forward to working with Governor Patrick and Senate President Murray as we fix the way the people's business is done."

The bill includes the following provisions:

Ethics

· Would reduce the minimum threshold for incidental lobbying. for executive agents from 50 hours or $5,000 to 25 hours or $2,500;

· Would reduce the minimum threshold for .incidental lobbying. for legislative agents from 50 hours or $5,000 to 25 hours or $2,500;

· Would expand the definition of what constitutes a client for lobbying purposes;

· Would require lobbyists to annually complete a certification course conducted by the secretary of state;

· Would vest the Secretary of State with the authority to promulgate regulations for the implementation, administration and enforcement of lobbying laws;

· Would require the Secretary of State, upon request, to issue confidential advisory opinions on lobby laws;

· Would increase penalties for late filings by lobbyists and employers;

· Would enhance the Secretary of State's civil powers to enforce lobbying laws, including vesting him with subpoena power;

· Would expand the disclosure requirements for lobbyists;

· Would increase the penalties for violations of lobbying laws from $5K to $10K or imprisonment for up to 5 years in state prison or 2.5 years in county jail;

· Would codify the crime of obstruction of justice and makes a violation punishable by a $25K fine and up to 10 years in state prison, or both;

· Would increase the maximum criminal penalty for giving or receiving a bribe from $5K/3 years imprisonment to $100K/10 years imprisonment;

· Would vest the state ethics commission with expanded regulatory authority;

· Would include executive agents in the revolving door statute;

· Would allow the Ethics Commission, in addition to a fine, to recover the proceeds, or the economic advantage, realized by the public official as a result of a violation of the ethics laws;

· Would establish a statewide grand jury, thereby allowing the AG to investigate crimes that cross county lines and to convene inquiries into local corruption matters without relying exclusively on local grand jurors;

· Would require lobbyists to obtain a license from the Secretary of State upon registration and allow the Secretary, upon cause shown, to suspend or permanently revoke a license;

· Would prohibit any gift by a lobbyist to a public official and would increase the penalty for violation of the gift ban from $2,000 up to $10,000 or 5 years imprisonment, or both;

· Would require that all state, county and municipal employees receive a summary of the conflict of interest law within 30 days of becoming an employee and every year thereafter All employees would be required to sign an acknowledgment form stating they received the summary;

· Would require that all state, county and municipal employees to take the State Ethics
Commission's on-line training program within 30 days of hire, and every 2 years thereafter; and Would require the State Ethics Commission to establish a certification program so that each municipality has 1 person knowledgeable about the ethics laws who can train municipal employees

Campaign Finance:

· Would require campaign finance reports to be filed twice in the non-election year;

· Would require sub-vendor reporting (if a candidate hires a consultant and the consultant makes further expenditures, the consultant would have to disclose those expenditures);

· Would increase fines for late filing from $10 per day to $25 per day;

· Would require disclosure of all donations to inaugural, recount and legal defense funds

· Would authorize the removal of a candidate's name from the ballot for failure to file campaign report if OCPF has commenced legal action;

· Would require mayoral candidates in cities with 40,000+ populations to e-file with OCPF;

· Would require mayoral candidates in cities or towns with populations of 50-100k to file with OCPF if more than $5K is raised in an election cycle;

· Would require individuals to reports disclosing such expenditures;

· Would streamline the administration of public financing program for statewide candidates;

· Would clarify that contributions from .professional corporations are prohibited;

· Would authorize OCPF to refer local non-filers to AG for prosecution; and

· Would establish a Special Commission to study the creation of a new Office of Public Accountability which would oversee ethics, campaign and political finance, and lobbyist registration

What is missing from all this good news is this: The House voted 153 to 0 in favor of NOT including, making the legislature subject to the States open meeting law, banning campaign contributions from lobbyists, creating a commission to study the states many quasi-public agencies and prohibiting convicted felons from registering as lobbyists. The bill does not go far enough and left out many important reforms that some in the House wanted, including reforms set forth by Deval.

The House did vote 155 to 0 in favor of taxing bribery income and corrupt gifts. This was a no brainer for sure.

The House did vote against H3853, an amendment to require independent expenditures to be reported,more than 250.00 a year. The long of this is, that the famous 527 groups who pay for TV ads will fly under the radar. They also rejected an amendment to have legislators require ethics training at the beginning of each two year term. The House also rejected an amendment to ban PAC contributions... a big deal for this State, as it is commonly known, that PAC money is one of the big reasons why we have one party in this State.

All of this goes to the Senate, where we could see a gutting of some of the bills language and intent. In another move by the Senate, they rejected the request from the MBTA from erecting billboards on it's property to help raise revenue. Seems like a dam good idea to me.

The Senate has also sent to the House a 278 page bill that makes major changes in the States transportation system. While looking good on paper, it leaves out reform of huge salaries, pension and health care benefits. One very big agency will be formed but without meaningful reform, it may turn into more of a finical mess loaded with inefficiencies and patronage. Voting records provided by Beacon Hill Roll Call.

11 Comments:

At March 31, 2009 at 11:18 AM , Blogger 6th Middlesex constituent said...

It tells the whole story that SHE wants us to know, but leaves out the parts she does not want us to know, and we let her get away with that. So what else is new?

 
At March 31, 2009 at 11:53 AM , Blogger Can't think of a name said...

She is useless, and so is her news letter. With everything going on in this state, this is what she feels is necessary to send out as information to her constituents? I don’t know about anybody else, but this looks like a pretty self-serving bit of information to me. Like she is trying to “sell” herself. Any buyers out there? I would offer $1, just to get her out of the State House. She can work cleaning out my barn instead, a job she is far more qualified for.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 12:06 PM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

And last night at the Library... she and a very one party loyalist form Mass Budget explained to no more than 20 people, how we need to continue to spend the billions we don't have.

Out of 66k in this Town and the dire predications of serious cuts to infrastructure and services, one might have concluded, hundreds of concerned residents would have packed the house. Unless you get the MWDN or Pam's newsletter, no one would have ever know about the meeting.

Just wait and see in the coming weeks and months what is going to happen. The projected budget/revenue short falls will have a new meaning to us all and will come crashing down on those at the State House, still thinking, it's business as usual.

DeLeo today has warned the public that we cannot as a State get the Obama money and squander it. Ok.. I'm with you Mr. Speaker... show me how you will live with that in mind.

Not to be an alarmist here, but this State faces way more trouble than is reported. And while 2010 is being debated at the House these days, 2011 and 2012 will make 2010 look good.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 1:06 PM , Blogger Old soldier said...

Jim how about doing your own newsletter instead of posting hers on the blog? I have no interest in anything she has to say. You, on the other hand, offer some interesting and thought provoking ideas and opionions. May not always agree with you, but they are at least ideas that have some value worth considering, and a legitimate reason to consider them. Richardson does not ask our opionion on anything, she just does her thing and then sends us a new letter to tell us what the thing is. Somehow, that is not my idea of what someone who “works” for me should be doing, but then, what do I know? I only fought alongside others who put out lives on the line for the right to have a government where the people’s wants, and the decision of the majority, rule. She is much more qualified to be running this state than me, after all, she can shoe a horse.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 2:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pillsbury has the right idea here, things are going to get worse before they get better. So what do we do about that? I don’t know, but I do know one thing for sure. Counting on a newsletter from Richardson to give us the information we need to turn things around is the dumbest thing we can do. She has done nothing for us yet, and no reason to expect that to change at any point in the future. So I say who cares what she sends out? I come here to this blog for information, which I get. I don’t even read the newsletter Richardson sends out. It should go in my spam folder for all the good it does me.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 3:43 PM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

Soldier,

Great idea on the newsletter. I only wish I had the money to do something in print...perhaps we get an old Huey to do a leaf lit drop around Town. The web is my only option at this point. No telling how many hits this blog gets, but from what people on the street tell me, many more read this than I think.

I only post here so those who aren't on her mailing list, see what she is doing.. or not doing and try to bring to light the reasons we should care about what she does or doesn't do. It effects us, whether we like it or not.

Next year, she and those like her will brag about their accomplishments, if the State hasn't filed for bankruptcy by then and those who challenge her and her ilk, will have to remind voters of their voting records.

With no real meaningful objective reporting done by MWDN, who by the way, may not be here next year in print and only as a paid web site, I'm completed to offer idea's that may well be radical by nature, or even crazy to some of the established one party elite, but my rants are constitutional by nature and respect the opinion and will of the voters. Along with timely useful information you don't see anywhere else, I'm trying to listen and share thoughts with normal everyday residents who have been left out of any and all decision making.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 4:25 PM , Blogger Worried 01701 said...

I would not waste your time posting her garbage on this blog. We come here to see what you have to say, and to find out what’s new around the state that we may have missed. I really have no interest at all in the thoughts of the likes of her. But appreciate your efforts to try and get a lot of different views out there. Keep doing this, it is very good and very useful information.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 4:53 PM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

UPDATE...

Senator Walsh will NOT take the job.


A small victory for all of us and makes Deval's decision to hire her and not fill that position look even worse.

 
At March 31, 2009 at 5:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get why you do this Jim, and appreciate your efforts. They are a voice of reason in this often unreasonable political areana. We have to deal with Richardson for a while longer, and the only way to remind people of how bad she is for them is to keep in front of them what she is doing, and what she is claiming she is doing, and what she never, ever admits to doing. The last part is the important part. I choose not to speak out publically against her, and even choose not to put my name on this posting. But I can tell you that I voted for her in November, and have long, long supported the democratic party in this state. Many of my closest friends and confidants have done the same. And like me, many of them will not be voting for Richardson come the next election, and many of us will not support the democratic party at all. You are right, this is a one party state, and to speak against them is a complete waste of time, so we don’t bother doing that. But I, and many, many more like me, won’t waste our votes in the next election either. We will vote strongly, unitedly, and quietly against the incumbants in this state, and if this blatant disregard for the will of the voter continues, I think that those die hard, self assured, confident democrats may all be looking for new jobs. Keep up the good work Jim.

 
At April 1, 2009 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Brian V. said...

If I want to read what Richardson has to say, I will go to her web site. If I want to see what Pillsbury has to say, I come here. I come here all the time, don’t even know Richardson’s web address. Does that tell you anything? I don’t see her posting your stuff on her web site, so why are you posting her stuff on yours? Nothing she says is worth reading if you ask me. It’s like asking Patrick for his suggestion on the best approach for a hiring plan!

 
At April 1, 2009 at 11:47 AM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

BV... I understand what you say but please understand my point here... if you go to www.pamrichardson.com, you won't see her newsletter.... and that's just not right. Why must we sign up for her newsletter to begin with? She represents us at the State House. Why can't I forward her web site newsletter to anyone else? We as tax payers and home owners must have access to what she is doing and saying... we have to care.. or we are just as apathetic as most voters are and deserve everything we get. If only a select few are privy to what see is doing, I say, that's discrimination of most of the people in her district. She only wants her followers to know what she's doing and again, that's not right and a disservice to us all.

 

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