SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 19, 2013

Our view: Bill gives campaign law some teeth


The Salem News

---- — 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.

State Rep. Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence and an unsuccessful mayoral candidate against Lantigua in the preliminary election, told Vogler he was “humbled and honored” to stand before colleagues in the House to support the bill.

“I commend Diana, and I’m very proud to be a part of this,” Devers said.

“By passing a piece of legislation like this, it actually shows the commitment we have for ethics. We must be able to show our constituents and taxpayers of the commonwealth that elected officials must be held accountable so we can earn the public’s trust. There have to be rules and guidelines that make us a civilized society,” he said.

State Sen. Barry Finegold said he doesn’t expect any problems with the Senate passing DiZoglio’s bill. Finegold, D-Andover, is the Senate chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Election Laws.

“I think it’s common sense and something we should implement,” Finegold said.

“This is something that already applies to statewide elected officials. There’s definitely a need for consistency, and I think there is strong likelihood in the Senate that this will pass. We reported this favorably out of committee (Joint Legislative Committee on Election Laws). I don’t think we had any dissension among the members,” he said.

DiZoglio’s bill is a sorely needed piece of legislation, and we encourage the Senate to support its passage swiftly. Those who will not follow campaign finance reporting law deserve no place on our ballots.