The office of the state auditor could do so much more for Massachusetts, but not under the leadership of Suzanne Bump.
The unfolding payroll scandal at the State Police — which somehow escaped the incumbent Democratic auditor’s notice — is a good example of the sort of waste and abuse that a real activist in the job might ferret out on behalf of taxpayers. An auditor without any partisan axes to grind could shake up the state.
In that spirit, the Globe endorses Daniel Fishman of Beverly, the Libertarian candidate, in the Nov. 6 general election.
It is rare for the Globe to back a candidate outside the two major parties, let alone the nominee of a party known for unconventional positions including decriminalizing recreational drugs, reinstating the gold standard, and repealing the income tax.
In an interview with the Globe editorial board, Fishman, 51, said he would concentrate solely on doing the job of auditor. “I’m only going to watch the money,” he said. Fishman was raised in a Democratic household, leaned Republican as a young man, but grew disenchanted by the religious right. He became a Libertarian in 2008 and was the regional director for the Gary Johnson-Bill Weld presidential campaign in 2016.
The state auditor’s job is to root out fraud and misspending by periodically auditing state agencies. In a state with a Republican governor and an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature, Fishman, a software architect, makes a good case that an auditor from either party is inherently compromised. “Why would you elect a Republican or a Democrat to audit Republicans and Democrats?” he asks.
Events this year have helped make his case. Not only did Bump miss what appears to be rampant payroll abuse at the State Police, she gave the office a black eye in September with an embarrassingly partisan audit of the Registry of Motor Vehicles. She accused the agency of issuing licenses to licensees after their date of death, a charge that fell apart when the RMV determined the drivers were still alive.
It’s part of a pattern for an auditor who has politicized the office, failed to complete the required number of audits, and pursued audits of overly narrow scope. Bump should not serve a third term.
Fishman worked as a special education teacher, then went back to school to learn computer programming. He has worked at start-ups companies and in IT at Massachusetts General Hospital. A former colleague described him as a “math geek,” adept at managing large amounts of data. Government waste in the 21st century hides in databases like payroll records, and although Fishman isn’t a CPA (neither is Bump), he has an intriguing background for a modern auditor.
Fishman wants to step up payroll audits and post information on the Web for citizens and journalists to scrutinize. And he wants to meet the legal requirements of auditing each agency once every three years. “You’re not allowed to say your job is too complicated in Massachusetts,” he says.
Libertarians have looked for a breakthrough against the two-party system for years. If Fishman manages to defy the odds and win, he would be the party’s first-ever statewide elected official, and the national Libertarian Party’s biggest chance to show it can govern.
There are two other candidates in the race: Boston Symphony Orchestra sales director Helen Brady, the Republican nominee, and physicist and teacher Edward J. Stamas of Northampton, the Green-Rainbow nominee. Brady wants to pull back what she called the politicization of the office; Stamas said he would focus more on auditing quasi-public agencies. We can’t argue with either goal, but don’t feel either candidate is quite as ready to run the office as Fishman.
The state auditor’s office has improved on Bump’s watch from a low standard set by her long-serving predecessor, Joe DeNucci. But Fishman would bring a sorely needed independent streak to the office. Give this Libertarian a shot.