SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 19, 2013

Our view: Bill gives campaign law some teeth

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua may leave one lasting legacy as he departs City Hall for the final time — a law closing what was known as the “Lantigua loophole.”

Lantigua’s scorn for campaign finance law resulted in a bill filed by first-term lawmaker Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen. The bill, which passed the House last week, would keep municipal candidates off the ballot for preliminary and final elections if they fail to file required campaign finance reports with state authorities. The bill extends existing state law that applies to state and county candidates to municipal officials. It deserves the support of the Senate and the signature of Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Certainly, the mayor’s issues were what prompted this legislation,” DiZoglio, whose 14th Essex District includes parts of Lawrence, told reporter Mark E. Vogler of our sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune. “But this was an issue statewide. This is something that will impact municipal elections across Massachusetts.”

Lantigua regularly put his contempt for campaign finance law — and by extension, the voter — on display. He repeatedly missed reporting deadlines. State Attorney General Martha Coakley has sued the mayor for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report and for not paying outstanding fines totaling $5,000 for those violations.

Lantigua lost in the Nov. 5 final election to Lawrence City Councilor Daniel Rivera by a margin that now stands at 58 votes. The mayor is seeking a recount that is scheduled to begin Saturday. But such recounts rarely result in a reversal of an initial ballot count.

DiZoglio’s bill has gained broad support around the commonwealth, with 31 legislators signing on as co-sponsors.

“I had several colleagues approach me during the past several months who were hugely supportive of bringing more transparency and accountability to government at the municipal level. And when you get all the Democrats and Republicans to agree on something, you’re in good shape,” DiZoglio said.

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