Everybody’s choosing corners in response to news that Speaker of the Rhode Island House Nicholas Mattiello, a Cranston Democrat, and his close allies have been tangled up in campaign finance peculiarities, with some subpoenas flying and Mattiello having to transfer $72,000 from one campaign account to another. Given the ground I’ve staked out on the broader issue, however, I’d suggest that italicized sentence in the following paragraph is probably the most important consideration:
Mattiello issued this statement late Tuesday night: “I am pleased this issue has been resolved. I regret that my campaign inadvertently made some mistakes. I accept the warning from the Board of Elections and will fully repay from my campaign account what is owed to the PAC account. To assure those mistakes are not repeated, right after the 2016 election I hired a CPA with expertise in campaign finance to handle all of the finances.”
If our election laws have become so complex as to require specialized accountants in order to run for a seat in a part-time legislature, we’re doing something wrong. We need more people running for office, not fewer.
Yes, money in politics is a problem, but the solution isn’t to force candidates to spend more money on campaign management. Rather, we need to reduce the value of elective office as an investment for special interests. That could mean something relatively easy, like term limits, but more fundamentally, we have to reduce the things that we task government with doing.