2012 has been a momentous year for Common Cause Rhode Island. And we couldn't have done it without your support, feedback, and investment. Thank you for doing your part to hold power accountable and your belief in a better Rhode Island. Together we are making history - in 2012, we helped to:
Pass a law: Campaign finance disclosure
At the initiation of Common Cause Rhode Island, the General Assembly passed a state-of-the art campaign finance disclosure bill. Our state is now at the forefront in providing information about who is funding political advertising.
Amend a law: Improved Access to Public Records Act (APRA)
For the first time in over a decade the state's "sunshine law" was drastically improved through the effort of Common Cause and other organizations including the ACLU and NEFAC. Rhode Islanders will now have access to more information about what government is doing on their behalf.
Amend a city charter: Redistricting
After a contentious redistricting process, Common Cause worked with Providence City Council member Sam Zurier to draft an amendment to the City Charter revising the process for drawing ward boundaries. Now a supermajority of the City Council we be required to pass last minute changes among other improvements.
Pass a new rule: Ethics Commission rule making on travel disclosure
At Common Cause Rhode Island's request, the state Ethics Commission passed a rule requiring all persons subject to the Code of Ethics, including legislators, to disclose out-of-state travel whose value is greater than $250 and is provided for by third parties
Warm wishes to you and yours for a happy holiday season and New Year!
To all who were able to join us for our 42nd Annual Meeting on November 1st, Thank You! It was a wonderful evening with almost 300 Common Cause supporters in attendance. We were thrilled to make Rev. James C. Miller the latest John Gardner Fellow for his lifetime of work on behalf of Common Cause issues. Additionally, we awarded the Excellence in Public Service Award to Mayor Angel Taveras for his work on redistricting and electoral reform.
In addition to the awards, we raffled off lunch with leading Rhode Island academics, including Michael Yelnosky, Corey Brettschneider, Carl Bogus, and Maureen Moakley as a prelude to the keynote lecture. The evening concluded with a thought provoking talk by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School. If you missed his presentation, you can watch a replay of it here.
Common Cause Rhode island thanks all who attended and made the evening possible.
Today Common Cause Rhode Island releases our 10th biennial Legislative Scorecard, which saw an increase from the previous all-time lows. Our scorecard rates all 113 members of the Rhode Island General Assembly based on votes on government reform. Detailed descriptions of the bills used, as well as scores for individual legislators can be found here. A more detailed list of votes for the House and Senate are also available. Common Cause creates the scorecard as a service to our members every two years.
The 2011-2012 General Assembly saw several significant advances for open government and campaign finance transparency. The legislature passed long-sought changes to the Access to Public Records Act and enacted significant campaign finance disclosure legislation. In the areas of judicial selection and ethics reform, however, we saw little progress. Notably, neither chamber took up a Common Cause initiative to let the voters decide whether lawmakers should be subject to the jurisdiction of the state's Ethics Commission.
Common Cause used 27 Senate votes, and 28 House votes in our scorecard, focusing on our core issues of campaign finance and election reform, ethics and lobbying reform, judicial selection, open government and separation of powers. The average score for members of the Senate was 66% and 68% for the House. Those averages represent a rise from all-time lows of 51% and 48% respectively in 2009-2010. A large number of small reforms resulted in the number of votes counted rising dramatically.
Common Cause never endorses candidates for any public office. The scorecard reports only how members of the General Assembly voted on particular bills of concern to Common Cause. Scoring does not constitute opposition or endorsement.
Please join Common Cause Rhode Island and General Assembly members from Barrington, Warren, and Bristol on Saturday November 10th from 10:00 am to 12:00pm at the Barrington Public Library for a discussion about issues of government transparency and accountability in Rhode Island.
This event is free and open to the public and is an opportunity for voters to meet their elected senators and representatives and listen to their plans for the upcoming legislative session. The program includes an informal meet and greet followed by an interactive question and answer section. Coffee and donuts will be served.
Common Cause Rhode Island is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of representative democracy by ensuring open, ethical, accountable and effective government processes at the local, state and national levels by educating and mobilizing the citizens of Rhode Island.
In addition to being the only good government group in the state with a full time lobbyist at the State House to monitor fair and open political processes, we support community and State House-based educational programs to expand the capacity of citizen lobbyists and keep the public informed about issues of process in government. In 2012, two of our bills passed that expand the public's access to government records and strengthen our state's campaign finance disclosure. Our top policy priority for 2013 is ethics reform, a constitutional amendment to bring the General Assembly back under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.
We look forward to seeing you on November 10th. If you have any questions or request additional information, please contact our office at (401) 861-2322 or email@example.com.
The John Gardner Fellowship is a
lifetime appointment to honor and recognize longstanding, exemplary supporters
of Common Cause Rhode Island; those who follow in the footsteps of John
Gardner, founder of Common Cause, who demonstrate extraordinary and unwavering
devotion to the organization, and who further its mission and best interests
wherever and however it is within their power to do so.
Common Cause Rhode Island is proud to announce that Rev. James C. Miller will become the 6th-ever John Gardner Fellow in our organization's history at the 42nd Annual Meeting on Thursday, November 1, 2012. The John Gardner Fellowship is the highest honor bestowed upon volunteers in name of Common Cause's Founder.
Rev. James C. Miller
Miller has served the fight for holding power accountable for more than fifty
years in his ministry career as a community organizer and church pastor, and
joins Alan Hassenfeld, Natalie Joslin, John Sapinsley*, Lila Sapinsley, and
has been involved with Common Cause ever since his divinity school professor of
social ethics admonished students to choose key social justice and political
reform organizations to support and align their ministries.Jim’s twenty-one years of dedication to
Common Cause Rhode Island began in 1991 when he began his post as Executive
Minister of The Rhode Island State Council of Churches.Before moving to RI, Jim had The Providence Journal mailed to his
Rochester, NY residency. News articles sharpened his awareness for the need of
religious leaders to become involved in RI governmental reform.As soon as Jim set foot in RI, he convened RI
interfaith leaders to join business and civic leaders and Common Cause RI to
form the RIght Now! statewide
coalition calling for ethic and political reform of RI state and city
his twenty-year tenure with Common Cause Rhode Island, many of which he served
as President of the Governing Board, our citizen lobby pioneered the decade-long
fight for Separation of Powers, which was won in an epoch 2004 Supreme Court
decision.Jim has been at the forefront
of our organization’s efforts to enact Judicial Reform and General Assembly openness
to citizens’ response for campaign finance reform measures and other key issues
of governmental accountability.
retired as the 35th minister successor to Roger Williams as Minister
of The First Baptist Church in America, the first church to be established in
Rhode Island and the first Baptist congregation to be founded in America in
1638.Jim currently serves as Pastor of
the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Providence, the first Italian Baptist Church in
RI organized in 1893.Jim’s ministry
career has centered on racial justice and equality, international peace-making,
revitalization of cities, development of affordable housing projects, youth
ministries, and college chaplaincy.Today, Jim serves as a board member of the Institute for the Study and
Practice of Nonviolence, the Governor’s appointee to the RI Commission on
Prejudice & Bias, and a Common Cause Advisory Council member.
Brief bio: Professor Bogus’ interests include:modern American political ideology and how it
affects public policy and law; torts and product liability; and gun control and
the Second Amendment. Professor Bogus has testified before Congress and spoken
about these topics across the country. In addition to books and law reviews,
his writings appear in opinion journals and newspapers, including The Nation,
American Prospect, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Washington
Times, and the Providence Journal. Read more.
Brief bio: Professor Corey Brettschneider teaches political theory and
public law. Brettschneider received a PhD in politics from Princeton University
and a JD from Stanford University. He is the author of When the State Speaks,
What Should it Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote
Equality, (Princeton University Press, 2012) and Democratic Rights: The
Substance of Self-Government (Princeton University Press, 2007). Read more.
Brief bio: Maureen Moakley (Ph.D. - Rutgers - 1984) is a Professor of
Political Science andteaches American
Government, State Politics and Media and Politics. She writes extensively on
state politics; her books include: The Political Life of the American States,
Party Alignment and State Politics, and Rhode Island Politics and Government
with Elmer Cornwell. In addition to her
academic work, she does regular political commentary on state politics on Rhode
Island PBS and Rhode Island NPR. Read more.
Yelnosky, Roger Williams University School of Law
Brief bio: Professor Michael Yelnosky brings an extensive background in
employment law. He is active in the legal community and recently served as a
neutral arbitrator in the case RIBCO v. State of Rhode Island. As President of
the RI Chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, Yelnosky has
moderated a program on the Roberts’s Court’s treatment of labor and employment
law issues. He has also written on Judicial Selection in RI.Read more.
It's not too late to purchase your tickets to the Annual Meeting. Please contact us at 401-861-2322 to reserve your seat.
Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at
Harvard Law School
Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at
Lessig is a leading expert in intellectual property law and the corruptive influence of money on democracy, and an entertaining multi-media presenter. His latest book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Politics and a Plan to Stop It, suggests that trust in our government is at an all-time low due to the power of special interests taking priority. While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it (http://republic.lessig.org/).
Previously, Lessig clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Lessig is also a founding board member of Creative Commons and Root Strikers.
This year's event will
also honor Rev. James C. Miller as Common Cause Rhode Island's 6th-ever John Gardner Fellow and Mayor Angel Taveras for his Excellence in Public service. We are proud to honor Rev. Miller and Mayor Taveras for their
decades of work promoting representative democracy in the community and in local and state government. Purchase tickets online
For the last six months we've been reading about members of the General Assembly taking lavish trips on the dime of outside groups. It's time for the public to know much more about these gifts, and who is behind them. That's why we've requested a change to the financial disclosure requirements in Rhode Island so that all elected officials much report gifts they've received because of their official position.
We were saddened to learn of the passing of John Sapinsley, one of the co-founders of Common Cause Rhode Island. You can read about Professor Sapinsley's extraordinary life here. John was a great supporter of our work in good government over the years. We were proud to award him our highest honor when he and his wife Lila were made John Gardner Fellows. He will be missed.
Common Cause played a large role in enacting the most sweeping change to judicial selection in the United States, back in 1994. Unfortunately, that system has been undermined ever since by the explosive growth in the number of magistrates in Rhode Island. We are supporting a bill in 2012, H 7086, that would require magistrates be selected under the open and transparent merit selection process. You can read our testimony here.