RI restores oversight of lawmakers who might have conflicts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — After a bill by state Sen. Stephen Archambault expanded driving opportunities for some people convicted of drunken driving, the lawmaker — who also happens to be a lawyer specializing in those cases — promoted it on his firm’s website.

“Archambault literally wrote this law, and knows exactly what to do to succeed for you,” it said.

It’s questionable whether sponsoring a bill that could help drive clients to his law practice represents a possible conflict of interest in Rhode Island. But in a nationwide review , the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press, Archambault was found to be one of numerous politicians whose bills ended up potentially helping their businesses.

Rhode Island is like most states in that it does not have a full-time legislature, and most of its lawmakers have outside jobs. The Center for Public Integrity/AP review found that at least 76 percent of state lawmakers holding office in 2015 worked other jobs. While such outside employment gives lawmakers expertise in certain policy areas, many of those jobs are directly affected by the actions of the legislatures.

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The review was based on an analysis of disclosure reports from 6,933 lawmakers in the 47 states that required them. It found many examples of state lawmakers who have introduced and supported legislation that directly and indirectly helped their own businesses, their employers or their personal finances. The practice is enabled by limited disclosure requirements for personal financial information and self-policing that often excuses seemingly blatant conflicts.

The law Archambault sponsored allows first offenders convicted of drunken driving to seek hardship licenses for traveling to and from work and to necessary appointments. They’re required to have interlock ignition systems in their vehicles, which measures the alcohol in their systems.

The former candidate for attorney general said on his law office website that he is in a unique position to help people charged with DUIs: “I literally drafted and successfully passed the current DUI law regarding hardship licenses and interlocks.”

The language about the bill was removed after his office was contacted by a reporter. He did not return requests for comment.

The site still mentions his work as a senator and promotes his elected position as a selling point for hiring him…

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