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State ethics board is right panel to refine election law

Joan Vennochi, in her Sept. 1 op-ed column “The Dan Wolf exemption,” suggests that liberal politics is the reason for the outcry against the state Ethics Commission’s recent opinion regarding state Senator Dan Wolf. In fact, objection to the opinion is strongly bipartisan.

Republican state Representative Dan Winslow has joined me in proposing a new exemption to the law, as have 10 other legal heavyweights from both parties including former ethics commissioners and staff and two former attorneys general. Other prominent Republicans have also strongly objected elsewhere.

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The general principle embodied in the law makes sense, but its current application could have Draconian effects, effectively preventing small-business owners from holding public office, even when no conflict is present. The law needs to be refined and the Ethics Commission, contrary to Vennochi, is an appropriate body to do so.

The commission has already approved dozens of exemptions, more than 10 that cover the section in question. One of them allows an MBTA employee to buy a T pass! The commission has the expertise and independence to review the petition with restraint. It will approve the petition only if — as we believe is the case — it doesn’t establish new opportunities for real conflicts of interest.

Pam Wilmot

Executive director

Common Cause

Massachusetts

Boston

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