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Don Roach: Rhode Island, You Are To Blame

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Back in 2010, when I had just begun writing for GoLocal I made a video imploring Rhode Islanders to choose different representatives at the State House because (at the time) we were in pension crisis mode and our economy was still in the tank. Democratic leadership hadn’t solved the problems facing our state and I tried to get you to change your voting patterns to give new people a try. At the very least, it would create some balance of power at the State House so that one party doesn’t simply do whatever they want without accountability.

I begged you to not to reelect David Cicilline in 2012 because of how he left Providence. I began the ABC (Anybody But Cicilline) Coalition asking each of you to become card carrying members. My reasoning was that we couldn’t let a politician get away with the financial shenanigans that occurred under Cicilline’s leadership.

Each time, no one listened. We elected the same people back to office and nothing changed. I’m not arrogant enough to think every eligible voter reads my musings each week, but I am certain there are a fair number of you who are faithful readers each week (thank you). And at the risk of losing you, I’m disappointed that you continue to make the same electoral choices cycle after cycle.

In case you were focused on basketball over the past few weeks, Gordon Fox resigned as Speaker after his offices were raided by the FBI. The raid made national headlines and yet again, Rhode Island was in the news shining a light on Rhode Island politicians behaving badly.

But you know what? I don’t think Rhode Island voters are going to care. If we didn’t care before now, what about a little old FBI raid is going to change anything? What will continued lagging employment do? One word: nothing.

Yesteryear, I would have had more confidence that something could change that you’d read the same news I read and make different electoral decisions. I mean does it make any sense to elect the very same people who put us in this mess? No it doesn’t and yet we do…again….and again….and again. In 2014, I’m not going to fool myself because if the Rhode Island electorate has proven anything, it’s that it is fiercely loyal to picking candidates who have proven that they don’t know how to fix the mess.

I know what some of you are thinking and I’ve heard that argument before – even if we elect new people, these new politicians could be the same as or worse than what we have today. To that I say, I can’t guarantee that the next group of politicians will be better but I can guarantee that if we elect the same people we can expect more of the same. If you want more of the same from the past decade, elect the same people.

Once again, I’ll challenge you to try something different. Most of Rhode Island registered voters are Independent and yet the Democratic Party dominates. I’ve written about why that’s the case, but without balance at the State House we screw ourselves. This may come as a shock but most politicians are power hungry people who want to be in charge. In a one party system the people in power don’t have to be accountable to anyone because they have no challengers. The RI Democratic party faces more challenge from fighting themselves than from than Republicans.

Sure, we can blame Rhode Island Republicans for being “out of touch” and not change our voting patterns, but if we continue voting for the same people who haven’t solved our problems, we doom ourselves to unending Democratic control and excess.

I used to think words could persuade Rhode Island to think differently and try a new candidate or two. But, it seems that we’re hooked on the same mediocrity. If what I’m saying riles your feathers, prove me wrong by voting in different people in 2014.

I’d love to see it but won’t be holding my breath.

Don Roach can be reached at don@donroach.org. You can also follow Don on Twitter at @donroach34.


Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

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Buddy Cianci

Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci resigned as Providence Mayor in 1984 after pleading nolo contendere to charges of assaulting a Bristol man with a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log. Cianci believed the man to be involved in an affair with his wife. 

Cianci did not serve time in prison, but received a 5-year suspended sentence. He was replaced by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. in a special election. 

Prev Next

Joseph Bevilacqua

Joseph Bevilacqua was RI Speaker of the House from 1969 to 1975, and was appointed as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1976.  It was alleged that Bevilacqua had connections to organized crime throughout his political career.  

According to a 1989 article that appeared in The New York Times at the time of his death:

The series of events that finally brought Mr. Bevilacqua down began at the end of 1984... stating that reporters and state police officers had observed Mr. Bevilacqua repeatedly visiting the homes of underworld figures.

The state police alleged that Mr. Bevilacqua had also visited a Smithfield motel, owned by men linked to gambling and drugs...

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Thomas Fay

Thomas Fay, the successor to Bevilacqua as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in 1993, and was later found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of directing arbitration work to a partner in his real estate firm, Lincoln Center Properties.  

Fay was also alleged to use court employees, offices, and other resources for the purposes of the real estate firm.  Fay, along with court administrator and former Speaker of the House, Matthew "Mattie" Smith were alleged to have used court secretaries to conduct business for Lincoln, for which Fay and Smith were business partners. 

Fay was fined $3,000 and placed on one year probation. He could have been sentenced for up to three years in prison. 

Prev Next

Brian J. Sarault

Former Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault was sentenced in 1992 to more than 5 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering.  

Sarault was arrested by state police and FBI agents at Pawtucket City Hall in 1991, who alleged that the mayor had attempted to extort $3,000 from former RI State Rep. Robert Weygand as a kickback from awarding city contracts.

Weygand, after alerting federal authorities to the extortion attempt, wore a concealed recording device to a meeting where he delivered $1,750 to Sarault.

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Edward DiPrete

Edward DiPrete became the first Rhode Island Governor to be serve time in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to multiple charges of corruption.

He admitted to accepting bribes and extorting money from contractors, and accepted a plea bargain which included a one-year prison sentence.

DiPrete served as Governor from 1985-1991, losing his 1990 re-election campaign to Bruce Sundlun.

Prev Next

Plunder Dome

Cianci was forced to resign from the Mayor’s office a second time in 2002 after being convicted on one several charges levied against him in the scandal popularly known as “Operation Plunder Dome.” 

The one guilty charge—racketeering conspiracy--led to a five-year sentence in federal prison. Cianci was acquitted on all other charges, which included bribery, extortion, and mail fraud.

While it was alleged that City Hall had been soliciting bribes since Cianci’s 1991 return to office, much of the case revolved around a video showing a Cianci aide, Frank Corrente, accepting a $1,000 bribe from businessman Antonio Freitas. Freitas had also recorded more than 100 conversations with city officials.

Operation Plunder Dome began in 1998, and became public when the FBI executed a search warrant of City Hall in April 1999. 

Cianci Aide Frank Corrente, Tax Board Chairman Joseph Pannone, Tax Board Vice Chairman David C. Ead, Deputy tax assessor Rosemary Glancy were among the nine individuals convicted in the scandal. 

Prev Next

N. Providence Councilmen

Three North Providence City Councilmen were convicted in 2011 on charges relating to a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes. In all, the councilmen sought more than $100,000 in bribes.

Councilmen Raimond A. Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond L. Douglas III were sentenced to prison terms of 71 months, 64 months, and 78 months, respectively. 

Prev Next

Charles Moreau

Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned in 2012 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. 

Moreau admitted that he had give contractor Michael Bouthillette a no-bid contract to board up vacant homes in exchange for having a boiler installed in his home. 

He was freed from prison in February 2014, less than one year into a 24 month prison term, after his original sentence was vacated in exchange for a guilty plea on a bribery charge.  He was credited with tim served, placed on three years probation, and given 300 hours of community service.

Prev Next

Gordon Fox

The Rhode Island State Police and FBI raided and sealed off the State House office of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox on March 21--marking the first time an office in the building has ever been raided. 

The details are still emerging, but the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Rhode Island has confirmed the IRS is involved in an ongoing investigation in Rhode Island.


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There's a lot of truth to what you write Don. Who can explain why we have a Congressman Cicilline who ran on the platform of 'I'm not a Republican' against one of the most ethical people in the state. If voters had just done a little bit of research, instead of voting the party line, we could have a congressman Doherty instead of someone who may be in prison soon. It's voter apathy and ignorance.

D = good for you and me
R = good for evil rich people

Last election while I was in line to vote, a low informed voter behind me said she would never vote for that state cop, she wasn't sure of his name, because she heard he was very demanding of his wife. She was going to vote for whoever it was running against him. Don, I vote in the 2nd district. This lady didn't have a clue what she was doing there, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts, she voted D.

A lot of the blame goes to the projo. They could do a better job of telling the truth and informing the voters what that truth is, but that would take reporters, something our newspaper of record is trying to do without.

Comment #1 by RI Taxpayer on 2014 04 09

Don is absolutely correct, yet again. We bought the ticket, and now we're taking the ride.

Comment #2 by Roger Williams on 2014 04 09

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We are surrounded by insanity in this State. There is this belief that some how, some way, the same old elected officials will wake up and start representing their constituents as opposed to representing themselves. How about that Jan Malick and all of his bills lowering taxes on goods his store sells? Insane to think that one day he will wake up and do something to assist us. Likewise, the new Speaker - who has never seen, nor is there now, any issues of poor ethics or compromised integrity at the State House, therefore, he says, we need not waste time on any ethics commission reform. Comlpete madness.

It would be insane to think that this will get better any time soon.

Comment #3 by David Allen on 2014 04 09

The reality in RI is robo-Dem voters. They are conditioned from birth. That will not change.

The only solution is to build voting blocs of real Independents and Republicans at the town and city levels until there are more of us than them.

Comment #4 by Art West on 2014 04 09

Protesting certain candidates is not very effective. We need a complete revamping of the system. The GA is too powerful. The governor has no real power. While I'm concerned that a Constitutional Convention will open a can of worms, we need to give equal power to the Governor, limit GA members to two terms, reinstate the Ethics Commission authority over the GA, and possibly pay for a full time GA. These part-timers have their hands in too many pots. And sadly, GA members will not approve these reforms as they are contrary to their own interests.

Comment #5 by Rich B on 2014 04 09

Don, I'm happy to say that I agree with every word--for once. I do think the Republican party in Rhode Island needs to be better organized and remain focused on the message of government and economic reform. Gun raffles and gay marriage debates are distractions that only harden people against conservative candidates. They also need to focus on finding and vetting quality candidates. Republicans take one step forward and three steps backwards when a candidate just doesn't have the chops for political leadership.

Comment #6 by John Onamas on 2014 04 09

John, you're correct. The Republicans need to stay focused on economic prosperity and honest government. If the average voter only knew the prosperity we could have in this state with a government devoted to it rather than its own and its friends' interests...

Comment #7 by Art West on 2014 04 10

Hey--I agree with John! Will wonders never cease.

RI Republicans have let the Dems define them as "the rich uncaring" when it can be demonstrated that the opposite is true. Demonization, bogus issues, emotional appeals are grist for their mill, and work well for the 'casually' informed.

Republicans need two or three core issues (ethics, economy, and educational choice, perhaps--steer clear of social issues) to focus on and not allow the Dems to define them. Yes, it is unfair in that the Republicans will have to put up good to excellent candidates to compete against both the RI media and Democrats--while the Dems can put up lesser individuals. But get over it and move on...

Comment #8 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 04 10

Don Roach - Many of us are trying out here. The thing is we need candidates to get behind. We have some, not many and voting for the lesser of two evils (which I've been doing for far too long) doesn't count.
I want Constitutionalists that will follow the first law, and know why it is the first law.

Jimmy LaRouche - You make great points about media. Unfortunately the media problem is not just here in RI it's across the country. Everyone is an opinion-ist as opposed to a journalist, even those that are supposed to be the latter.

Comment #9 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 04 10

Two problems:

1.Complaisant media

They media accommodates the lib-prog-statist line all too often. The diversity of thought and recognition for free market principles is woefully absent.

2. Complaceent voters: the bias in the press contributes to this problem. Get rid of media bias, and kiss Dem-hypermajority good-bye.

Maybe Breitbart New England would move the ball toward liberty and limited government in the Ocean State. We just got Breitbart California this past week.

Comment #10 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 04 10

I would not characterize the media in Rhode Island as complacent. It is mostly inept, especially the state's "major" newspaper. The best thing might be for the ProJo to fold its tents and go away. The Boston Globe could create a Rhode Island section of its paper and do a far better job of it.

Whenever I hear conservative complain about media bias, I break out my violin. Arthur, I find complaints about media complacence and bias from you to be rather ironic, given that you offer conservative opinions on Rhode Island politics from more than 3,000 miles away.

Comment #11 by John Onamas on 2014 04 11

"Whenever I hear conservative complain about media bias, I break out my violin. Arthur, I find complaints about media complacence and bias from you to be rather ironic, given that you offer conservative opinions on Rhode Island politics from more than 3,000 miles away.

I share a conservative view point on Rhode Island politics in a state where the line has been predominantly liberal.

How is it ironic, John? Is there something wrong with someone sharing a different point of view, or expecting media sites to present more sides of an argument?

Comment #12 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 04 11

Unemployment in Florida is dropping like a rock, and they are cutting taxes. When the last paying customer leaves this sordid robodem jurisdiction, please turn off thelights, the union hacks and illegals won't. As Zimmerman once said: "Look out kid, they keep it all hid".

Comment #13 by G Godot on 2014 04 12

Oh, the ignorance of people who think only RI's can have thoughts on RI. The incredible ignorance....

Comment #14 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 04 14

Thanks for your support, Jimmy -- whether you agree or disagree with my points of view.

Comment #15 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 04 15

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