If left to players, no game would have refs. Sure, there would be arguments over a hockey offsides or the mystery penalty known as pass interference that plagues football, but players can sort that out just as they would if left to their own devices on a pond or playground. Referees ensure the fairness of the game, but mostly for the fans.

In government, refs protect the interests of taxpayers and citizens, and just as in sports, probably wouldn’t exist if it left to the officials. As evidence, witness the slow-walk to fill the job of director of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Beacon Hill is not exactly moving quickly to find and name a successor to Michael Sullivan, who retired on Dec. 27 from the job he held for 25 years. As the State House News Service has reported, it’s a safe bet his replacement won’t be working within the 60 days prescribed by law.

A bipartisan group given the task of picking a new director met recently. As the News Service reports, their delay is due in part to the fact Gov. Charlie Baker had not filled the committee’s fourth and final seat until the end of January, when he chose Vincent Rougeau, dean of the Boston College Law School, to serve alongside Secretary of State William Galvin and the chairmen of the state’s two major parties. The committee has opened the application process until Feb. 19. It plans to meet the next day to start sorting resumes.

In the meantime a presidential primary looms, which is of less concern to the office than the state races and campaigns on the horizon. Galvin points to the conflicts of committee members that are likely to slow things even further — such as the selection of party officers, early voting, etc. He says it is “kind of a busy time.”

While by no means the same situation, it’s reminiscent of a logjam tying up any major decision from the Federal Election Commission. The six-member body, meant to be the campaign finance watchdog for Congress and president, is stuck in neutral with only three active members. It needs a fourth for a quorum. In the meantime, the White House can’t get on the same page with the Senate, it seems, to round out the bipartisan commission. So, a lot doesn’t get done.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance likely won’t reach that point of stasis if only because Galvin, if it comes down to it, can name an interim director. He told the News Service he’s optimistic that won’t be necessary — let’s hope he’s right — and that he believes the selection committee can agree on an independent arbiter of campaign finance rules beholden to no particular party or interest.

Which is exactly what the state needs in a referee for its politics — even if no one relishes the duty of hiring one.

 

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