Ethics reform badly needed

Published 4:14 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In one of his last moves as Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley has called a special legislative session starting this Thursday.

Though the timing is odd, I will say this: Alabama needs this reform.

For the first time in the history of Alabama, lobbyists will be required to fully disclose all their spending on public officials and employees.

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Common sense, right? Right now, following the money trail to see who supports who can be a high task. Which leads us to the next reform—the banning of PAC to PAC transfers.

Political Action Committees can, and have been used, to hide the true source of campaign contributions. Under the current system, it is all too easy to launder money through several PACs until it becomes impossible to determine where the money originated. The people have a right to know what money their representatives are receiving.

Next, the bill seeks to end the practice of “double-dipping” by legislators. This means that representatives will no longer be allowed to maintain a conflict of interest by receiving government contract money. Double-dipping, as the governor’s report states, jeopardizes the integrity, efficiency and impartiality of state agencies. Quite simply, a legislator should be banned from voting on anything that he or she has a monetary or other vested interest in—just my opinion.

The rest of the proposed ethics reform deserve mentioning, but is essentially just the icing on the cake. For one, the bill seeks to restrict political activity done on state time with state funds. Makes sense–politicians should not use public funds for personal campaign purposes.

Finally, the package acknowledges that the current Ethics Commission does not have the authority nor tools to provide the oversight that Alabamians deserve. Proposed changes will allow the Ethics Commission more powers to conduct investigations into corruption, while lowering the requirements needed to make corruption allegations.

All and all, the bill would work to restore public trust in the state government.

Better late than never.