Democracy only works when elected officials are responsive to the voices that matter most: those of the citizens who elected them. Strong ethics standards help ensure that legislators are acting for the public good. Ethics laws set standards of behavior for lobbyists and ensure transparency and accountability for elected officials. This ensures special interests do not hold special influence and builds the voter's trust in the political process.
Common Cause Maryland has been holding public officials accountable since our founding. We championed the state's landmark ethics legislation, passed in 1999. This legislation set clear limitations on the role and influence of lobbyists in Annapolis.
Maryland's current ethics laws are a tremendous accomplishment and have had a tangible impact on curbing the influence of special interests in the legislative process. But the laws need updating and improving.
Recently Maryland has had its share of ethics scandals:
- In 2013 a flood of upper level executive legislative staff, as well as yet another legislator, left public service for private lobbying with barely any wait time required;
- Several candidates running for office in 2014 have criminal convictions, with two of their crimes related to campaign finance or voter intimidation;
- Recent investigative reporting by the Baltimore Sun quantified how laws passed by our part-time legislators stand to benefit their full-time employers.
Public trust in our democratic process is fragile and tenuous. That trust has been battered, bruised, and in many cases lost at the national level. Our state legislators must stay vigilant to ensure that Maryland is constantly strengthening our ethics codes to protect that public trust.
The Capital Gazette noted, "It's an honor for Annapolis to be a center of representative government. And thanks are owed to all the people -- not just politicians, government employees and lobbyists, but ordinary Marylanders -- who make the government work."
Ethics codes ensure that the voice of the people heard as clearly as those of special interests. Common Cause Maryland protects that voice.