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editorial

An Olympic effort at transparency is needed

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports/file 2015

It is, ostensibly, a new day for the 2024 Summer Olympics bid. Boston 2024 has reshuffled its leadership, and promised a detailed new financing and venue plan for Governor Baker — and the public — by June 30. Since the spring, the group, under pressure from public officials, has also taken positive steps toward more transparency, releasing some of its payroll and consulting fees in early March. But Boston 2024 has stopped short of disclosing the amount individual donors have given, or the sums paid to all its vendors. For a venture so sweeping, with such a potential impact on Boston and the region, it’s high time to clue the public in. After a winter of missteps, candor and transparency now would go a long way to building trust.

The good news is that Boston 2024 has been working with the attorney general’s office to develop a new protocol to release more detailed information than is legally required, in a quarterly report that the group is expected to release by Friday. That’s key, because Boston 2024 is clearly not just another charity: It is an organization driving a bid that will have a lasting impact on everything from traffic to housing to the built environment, and it is expected to ask for some form of taxpayer guarantee on financing. Since Boston 2024 is essentially conducting a political campaign, the group should be held to the same standard as a campaign when it comes to disclosure — a dollar for dollar accounting of its fundraising and spending.

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According to Boston 2024 head Rich Davey, under the new standards the group will list donors and give a dollar range; for vendors, the group will disclose amounts for some, and ranges for two international consulting firms that insisted on keeping their exact fees secret. Davey said the group will also no longer accept anonymous corporate donations. Those are all positive steps. But full disclosure would be better — for the public, and for Boston 2024. Indeed, the group could use the protocol with the attorney general as an opportunity to begin restoring the public’s trust, which was damaged last week after Boston magazine and the Boston Business Journal uncovered previously undisclosed documents showing that the group had indeed considered public financing to build Olympic venues.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recognizes the need for a heightened level of transparency. “[The mayor] believes robust transparency is the single most important attribute to gain the public’s trust,” a close advisor to the mayor told the Globe. (It was at Walsh’s insistence that the group released its payroll list in March.) Other elected officials agree. Indeed, Attorney General Maura Healey believes Boston 2024 should be held to a much higher standard than nonprofits — she acknowledges the group is unlike any other charity her office oversees. And US Representative Michael Capuano told Boston Herald Radio that Boston 2024 should divulge what it is spending on public relations. “It strikes me that there are an awful lot of people getting very wealthy off this PR, and yet it’s not going so well,” he said.

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Boston 2024 should disclose how much it pays to each of its vendors, along with the names of its donors and the dollar amounts of their contributions. The interests of Massachusetts taxpayers are in play in the group’s dealings — and the decisions Boston 2024 makes could affect the future of the Commonwealth in profound ways. It’s time for the organization to make an olympic effort to respect the public’s right to know.