Testimony – Special Joint Committee on Initiative Petitions

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Ballot Initiative NO. 23-34 An Act expressly authorizing the Auditor to audit the
Legislature (House, No. 4251).
March 26, 2024

Thank you. My name is Mary Connaughton and I am the Director of
Government Transparency at Pioneer Institute.

The Massachusetts’ Constitution, an inspiration for other states, the
nation and other countries, came from the pen of John Adams. Among
his political writings was an early work, A Dissertation on the Canon
and Feudal Law, which laid out the principles of modern, democratic
conceptions of liberty. In it, Adams makes the case for accountability
to the people:

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among
the people, who have a right…and a desire to know; but besides
this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible,
divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I
mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.

The Legislature has failed in its constitutional duty to be accountable
to the people “at all times,” as required under Article V of the
Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, by exempting itself from public
records laws. That’s not the way it works in the vast majority of states
— as documented in the Senate’s 2018 report resulting from the
Special Legislative Commission on Public Records.

This Legislature operates with minimal public disclosure. Most states
require policy makers to file financial disclosure forms that any
member of the public can easily inspect. In Massachusetts, by the
legislature’s own crafting, individuals must show proof of identity to the
Ethics Commission to access the disclosures, and the legislator is
informed of who is making the request. That is

Once obtained, Statements of Financial Interest offer little insight. The
forms haven’t been updated in decades. The highest category for real
estate holdings is “$100,000+.” Seriously? But updating these isn’t up
to the Ethics Commission, it’s up to the legislature. Why are we so far
behind states like Mississippi, New Jersey and Iowa in this regard?
Bills impacting the Bay State’s 7 million residents are largely crafted
behind closed doors. The state constitution declares that it is the right
of the people to give instructions to their representatives. But how can
we do so when we don’t know what our representatives are doing —
or not doing? A comprehensive state audit is the perfect way to find

While Auditor DiZoglio has launched this effort, it would be foolhardy
to think this is about Diana DiZoglio. This is about preserving the
constitutional principles we all hold dear. We are nothing without an
engaged citizenry and an engaged citizenry requires the public trust
that goes hand in hand with transparency.

Thank you.