DiZoglio continues push to audit Legislature, even as AG says she lacks the authority

Politics

“Massachusetts has one of the most opaque legislatures in the nation and this decision reinforces the status quo that benefits powerful insiders while leaving working people in [the] dark,” the state auditor said.

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe Staff, File

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio said she plans to forge ahead with a sweeping audit of the Massachusetts Legislature, even after Attorney General Andrea Campbell announced on Friday that DiZoglio’s office lacks the legal authority to do so without lawmakers’ go-ahead.

DiZoglio, who has faced pushback on her efforts to probe the legislative branch since announcing the initiative in March, was dealt yet another blow when Campbell declined to back a potential lawsuit that would have forced the Legislature’s compliance. 

Campbell explained in a 17-page letter that her office found “no historical precedent at all for the type of audit [DiZoglio’s office] seeks to conduct now,” and that the state auditor “does not currently have the legal authority to audit the Legislature without the Legislature’s consent.”

“I believe transparency is a cornerstone of good government, but that transparency must be achieved through methods that are consistent with the law,” Campbell said in a statement. “After a thorough review of the statutory text, pertinent Supreme Judicial Court decisions, and relevant history, we have concluded that current law does not allow an audit of the Legislature over its objection.”

Further, Campbell asserted that her office’s findings were “sufficiently clear that litigation on this question is not necessary or appropriate.”

Campbell did, however, leave open the possibility of a 2024 ballot question that would give DiZoglio the express authority to audit the Legislature. The AG certified the ballot initiative earlier this year, meaning the question could end up before voters if DiZoglio and her supporters are able to collect about 75,000 signatures by Nov. 22. 

Yet Campbell also warned in her letter that “should the initiative become law, we may need to consider whether, and the extent to which, constitutional limitations affect how the law would apply.”

DiZoglio said in a statement last week that she will “continue to fight to get this issue on the ballot.” The auditor also said she respects Campbell’s “right to her opinion, and to defend the position of legislative leaders,” but vowed that her office will continue to conduct its audit anyway. 

“A question of statutory interpretation on a matter of such importance to taxpayers is best answered by the courts, not the executive department of government,” DiZoglio said. “Massachusetts has one of the most opaque legislatures in the nation and this decision reinforces the status quo that benefits powerful insiders while leaving working people in [the] dark.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka — both vocal in their objection to the audit — applauded Campbell’s decision. 

“I am heartened that the Attorney General and her highly experienced legal team reached this conclusion — the position we have argued for months — based on the law, the facts, and the historical record,” Spilka wrote in an email to senators Friday morning. “The Attorney General’s findings are crystal clear: the Auditor’s proposed audit has no basis in law and shall not proceed.”

In a joint statement with Mariano, Spilka further expressed appreciation for Campbell’s thorough review. 

“We are grateful to see the Attorney General’s legal process conclude, and we remain committed to continuing the work of the people of Massachusetts,” the pair said.


Posted

in

by