As a candidate for state auditor in 2022, Democrat Diana DiZoglio promised that if elected, she would audit the Legislature. “No branch of government, especially the Legislature, should be above the law and exempt from accountability,” she said.
That was not a promise calculated to win friends among the imperious legislative leadership, which cherishes its authoritarian power and hides behind a culture of closed-door secrecy so opaque that Massachusetts arguably has the least transparent state government in America. It was, however, in keeping with DiZoglio’s history of butting heads with the Legislature’s Democratic bosses, which became something of a trademark during her 10 years as an elected lawmaker.
Voters approved. DiZoglio won the Democratic primary by a comfortable margin, then defeated Anthony Amore, her Republican opponent in the general election, by an even more comfortable margin. Two months after taking office, she set out to make good on her campaign promise, announcing in March that she was opening audits into the Massachusetts House and Senate, with the goal of “increas[ing] transparency, accountability, and equity in an area of state government that has been completely ignored.”
Predictably, the Legislature’s overlords — House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka — have no intention of cooperating with DiZoglio’s audit, which they claim is not authorized by law.
“Given that your attempt to conduct a performance audit of the House of Representatives exceeds your legal authority and is unconstitutional,” the speaker told the auditor in a chilly letter, “your request to meet to begin such an audit is respectfully denied.” Spilka was equally dismissive, declaring that under the Massachusetts Constitution, it is up to the Senate “to manage its own business and set its own rules.” To make sure DiZoglio got the message, the Senate’s proposed spending plan for fiscal 2024 allows only a 1 percent increase in the auditor’s budget — a minuscule fraction of the increases allotted to other statewide officials.
Yet amid the expected resistance from the State House establishment, DiZoglio is winning support from an unexpected source: the candidate she defeated last November.
In a recent conversation, I asked Amore what he thought of DiZoglio’s push to expose the Legislature’s workings to public scrutiny. “I absolutely support her efforts,” he said without hesitation. “I hope she prevails.”
Whether auditing the Legislature is within the scope of the auditor’s statutory power is something reasonable people can debate, and Amore assumes the issue will eventually be decided by the attorney general and the courts. But the claim by the House speaker and Senate president that the Legislature can be trusted to audit itself, he says, deserves only “a cringe and an eye roll.”
By that logic, he wonders, “why have an auditor’s office at all? If in-house audits are good enough for the Legislature, then why wouldn’t they be good enough for every agency and department — and for private industry, for that matter?” If House and Senate leaders are such paragons of integrity, Amore adds, why do they insist on “exempting themselves from public records laws”?
Encouraging words for a former political opponent, especially one from the other side of the political aisle, aren’t too common in these polarized times. Then again, there was a reason why Amore was dubbed “the class of the Republican ticket” last fall by the Globe editorial board, which endorsed him in the auditor’s race. Before I can raise the issue, Amore — who has a 24/7 job as the director of security and chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — makes clear that he has no interest in running for office in 2026 and definitely not in a rematch: “The people have spoken on Amore v. DiZoglio,” he says firmly.
While Mariano and Spilka claim the Legislature is off-limits to the state auditor, there is precedent to the contrary. In the auditor’s archives, DiZoglio’s staff has found documentation of audits conducted in 1922, 1952, and 1992. Ultimately, the new auditor’s bid to let some sunlight into the Legislature may wind up before the Supreme Judicial Court. If DiZoglio doesn’t prevail in litigation, I ask Amore, would he be open to a ballot campaign to change the law — perhaps even in partnership with her? Once more, he doesn’t hesitate. “Yes, I would. I think it’s a worthy endeavor.”
From the voters’ perspective, DiZoglio’s push to audit the Legislature is all to the good. Amore’s applause for her efforts makes it even better. Both are evidence that not everything in politics must revolve around tribal loyalty — and that doing something because it’s right is more inspiring than doing it because it’s safe.