Friday, January 2, 2009

Politics v Ethics

Robert Benson Jr., in his Providence Journal, Jan. 2, Commentary, "Legislators can ignore ethics law" asks "Where's the outrage and protest?"

His concerns are real and frightening for every Rhode Islander no matter what party. Article VI, Section 5 of our state constitution says: "For any speech in debate, in any house, no member shall be questioned in any other place." Judge Francis Darigan has ruled that this provision means that a State Senator can not be prosecuted by the State Ethics Commission for his actions (read; votes) in the General Assembly.

The response in the local blogs to this piece was about whether more Democrats than Rebublicans were being held up as bad examples. This serves only to deflect attention away from an extremely important and serious decision by a Superior Court judge and turns it into nothing more than partisan posturing.

That's not what is important here. This is not a political issue, it's an ethics issue.

If current language in the Constitution insulates Senators or Representatives from charges of ethics violations, then that language must be changed, either by changing the Constitution itself or a challenge before the Supreme Court. As it stands now, this makes a mockery of our ethics laws.

Mr. Benson is right. Every one of us should be outraged.