Campaign Snapshot: The Auditor's Race

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct 27, 2010

BOSTON -- The race for Governor has been getting all of the attention this election season, but next week, Massachusetts voters will also choose the new auditor – the state’s fiscal watchdog whose job includes rooting out fraud in government programs like Medicaid, housing and welfare.

The Democratic candidate for auditor is Suzanne Bump, who recently stepped down as Gov. Deval Patrick’s Secretary of Labor in order to run for the post. 
Her Republican challenger is Mary Connaughton, who has been a board member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and  the chief financial officer of the state lottery.  Connaughton is the only certified public accountant in the race, and she said in a recent debate on NECN that that makes her uniquely qualified for the job.
“I’m an experienced auditor.  I was a CPA.  I taught accounting.  I know my stuff," Connaughton said. "Seriously, you need to be an attorney to be the attorney general.  Shouldn’t you be an auditor to be the state auditor?”
But Democrat Suzanne Bump said that CPA credentials weren’t necessary. She said her experience as a manager and leader trained her to wring savings from government.
“If you look at my record, it is of getting better results in state government," Bump said. "As a legislator and as a cabinet secretary, I took agencies apart to figure out how it is that they had gone off track and what we needed to do to get them back on track.”
Whoever wins the race will succeed longtime auditor Joe Denucci – who is retiring from office after 24 years.  Before becoming auditor, Denucci was a middle-weight boxing champ – so perhaps it’s appropriate that the race to succeed him is turning into a slugfest.
At a press conference on Monday, Bump criticized her opponent’s tenure as CFO of the Lottery in the 1990s.  The Boston Globe highlighted a 1997 audit of the lottery that accused officials of poor accounting practices, violating the law and costing the state $1.6 million dollars in lost revenue.   
“The state auditor said that Mary Connaughton’s tenure was characterized by questionable transactions, waste, abuse, legerdemain and mismanagement. Mary Connaughton is an example of why people lose faith in their government," Bump said.   "She repeatedly acted in flagrant disregard of the public interest. She refused then and refuses now to take any responsibility for it."
Connaughton said that the abuses at the lottery started before she arrived and that she took steps to end them.  On her Facebook page, Connaughton wrote, “I stand by my record as CFO of the Lottery, despite today's, well, Bump in the road!”
Bump is also taking heat on the campaign trail for claiming two property tax exemptions, by saying that both her home in Great Barrington and her condo in South Boston were primary residences.  Conservative talk radio is buzzing with accusations that a candidate for auditor cheated on her taxes.  But Bump insists that she didn’t break the law, and has repaid the city of Boston close to $6,000.

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