Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com — as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

1. When Target 12 first got a tip a few months ago about Rep. Carlos Tobon, alleging he had borrowed money but failed to pay it back, we decided it was worth a closer look considering not only his status as a lawmaker but also his seat on House Finance. It didn’t take long before Eli Sherman, Tim White and I realized the problem went far beyond one creditor — we were floored by the number of financial disputes, court cases and other issues we discovered, little to none of which was reflected in the representative’s ethics filings. The final result was Thursday’s TV report and accompanying 4,000-word article detailing Tobon’s financial problems as fully as we could. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi didn’t wait long to react — Tobon was off House Finance within four hours, and by Friday night there was a new policy in place barring General Assembly staff lawyers from representing lawmakers in private legal disputes. (John Manni, a part-time attorney for the House Judiciary Committee, had been defending Tobon in a lawsuit.) It was a notably different reaction by the speaker’s office compared with six years ago, when Target 12 revealed that Rep. John Carnevale wasn’t living in his district. Then-Speaker Nick Mattiello waited weeks to break with Carnevale, to the frustration of some rank-and-file reps who were getting questions at voters’ doors about why House leaders hadn’t done more to respond. (Carnevale later pleaded no contest to a perjury charge, receiving a five-year sentence.) Shekarchi said Friday he wanted voters to see that “swift action” had been taken to address the revelations about Tobon. “It was in the best interest of the House,” the speaker told Tim.

2. The word “bombshell” is overused, but the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade certainly fits the bill. It offered vindication to Rhode Island lawmakers and activists who pushed through the 2019 Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified abortion rights in state law, despite skepticism at the time about whether Roe was in jeopardy from then-Speaker Nick Mattiello. (Massachusetts similarly passed the ROE Act in 2020, over Governor Baker’s veto.) The Rhode Island Supreme Court dismissed a suit against the law shortly after the Roe opinion surfaced, though the plaintiffs say they are reviewing their options for another challenge. Polls have long found majority support in Rhode Island for some level of legal abortion, and now the Supreme Court leak has given new momentum to the effort by Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar to enact the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would allow taxpayer funding of abortions through Medicaid and the state employee health plan. “Rhode Island isn’t protecting reproductive rights as long as it continues to wield state funding as a weapon to prevent people from getting the health care they need,” Cassar argued. The bill already counts a majority of senators and a near-majority of reps as sponsors, and Governor McKee is urging its passage, as are his Democratic challengers. (Activists want McKee to move more aggressively by formally adding it to his proposed budget plan.) Still, the politics of abortion don’t always play out neatly on blue state/red state lines. The State House is still home to a substantial cohort of pro-life Democrats, as well as pro-choice ones who prefer when the issue is on the back burner. “There are enough pro-life legislators to prevent a state budget from passing with the necessary two-thirds vote,” the Rhode Island GOP warned in a news release. Legislative leaders may hesitate to force a vote on the issue, especially in an election year, but the Roe leak has given Valverde and Cassar new leverage.

3. By pushing abortion much higher on the political agenda, the Roe opinion could also have a domino effect on some of this year’s big races. The most obvious example is the 2nd Congressional District contest, where the crowd of Democratic candidates rushed to condemn the decision and express their support for abortion rights, while Republican Allan Fung downplayed the issue’s relevance. “I don’t support taxpayer funding of abortions, late term, or partial birth abortions,” Fung told my colleague Adriana Rozas Rivera in a statement. “If that leaked decision is true then it becomes a state issue and in RI the law is codified.” Fung added, “I’m not running to change abortion laws, I’m running to lower gas and grocery prices and get products back on the shelves.” Abortion was also uncomfortable terrain for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus, who repeatedly refused to say whether she’d have signed the Reproductive Privacy Act during a 12 News at 4 interview with Kim Kalunian. Yet some Democrats could face difficult questions on the topic, too. Sheldon Whitehouse immediately signaled his support for changing the Senate filibuster rules to pass a federal abortion law with only 50 votes. But Jack Reed — an institutionalist who has been cool to filibuster changes in the past — declined through a spokesperson to say whether he supported the move, pointing out there are already too few votes to enact a rules change.

4. Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss has seen a career’s worth of news during his first term on Capitol Hill; the Jan. 6 attack was only his third day in office. Appearing on this week’s Newsmakers, Auchincloss argued Massachusetts and Rhode Island leaders shouldn’t be “overly sanguine” about abortion rights just because they’ve passed state-level laws. “There is a chance, given this draft opinion, that the Supreme Court could go even further, and say that, actually, state-level laws that are legalizing abortion are themselves subject to judicial review,” Auchincloss told me. “And other civil rights that we have achieved over the last half-century — same-sex marriage, access to contraception, for example — could also come up for debate.”

5. Dan McKee’s reversal-of-the-reversal on attending Thursday’s RIPEC forum meant voters got their first chance to see the major candidates for governor side by side. The event was ably moderated by my colleague Steph Machado, and you can watch the entire forum here. The candidates generally played to type. Among the three Democrats with well-funded campaigns, Nellie Gorbea sought to get a little distance from McKee and Helena Foulkes, backing a tax increase on wealthier Rhode Islanders that they oppose. McKee kept the focus on his record and the economic proposals he currently has before the legislature, while Foulkes touted her growing shelf of policy plans and her executive experience. Matt Brown and Luis Daniel Muñoz competed for progressive votes, and were more ready to criticize the others on stage, particularly in Brown’s case. And Ashley Kalus stood out for being the only Republican in attendance. The next date on the gubernatorial tour schedule is May 27, when a group of advocacy organizations are hosting an event called “Raising Rhode Islanders Out of Poverty: A Gubernatorial Forum.” (McKee’s campaign manager didn’t respond Friday night when asked whether the governor will attend.)

6. The latest campaign-finance reports show Helena Foulkes with a significant lead in the money race, sitting on $1.5 million despite spending at a fast clip.

7. After quickly cutting ties with her first campaign manager, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos has hired a new one: Evan England, through his new firm Back Channel Communications. Matos spokesperson Mike Raia says England will “manage day-to-day operations” for the Matos campaign; he previously managed Seth Magaziner’s successful 2014 campaign for treasurer, later working for him at the State House.

8. I got an early look at “This Will Not Pass,” the highly anticipated new political book by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burnshere are some of its juicier nuggets about Gina Raimondo.

9. The D.C. news outlet Roll Call sat down with David Cicilline for a feature on his efforts to target Big Tech with new antitrust regulations, as Cicilline faces the prospect of no longer controlling a gavel following the November election. Cicilline has gotten major national attention for his work in that area over recent years, but so far it hasn’t translated into support from Democratic leaders to bring his package of antitrust bills to the floor. Punchbowl News recently offered a window into why: “House Democrats are split on the legislation. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the House’s antitrust committee, has been pushing for a vote, but the leadership has so far resisted, saying it would divide the caucus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has enlisted Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a Big Tech ally, to work with Cicilline to see if they can reach a compromise that can pass the House.” (Cicilline famously unloaded on Lofgren about the issue during a private call last year.)

10. Unions just put in $75,000 to support Providence’s June 7 pension bond referendum.

11. A major changing of the guard at the General Assembly: Senate Republican Leader Dennis Algiere won’t seek re-election after 30 years on Smith Hill. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio offered high praise, saying, “Statesmen like Dennis Algiere are rare in today’s politically charged atmosphere.”

12. Disappointing news for the Roger Williams University Class of 2022: Dr. Anthony Fauci won’t be coming to Rhode Island to deliver their Commencement address in person, after all. RWU President Yannis Miaoulis emailed the campus on Friday night to announce they’d been informed Fauci has to miss the event due to a family memorial service, though he’ll still give remarks virtually. The timing was interesting: Miaoulis shared the news just after Politico reported how frustrated Fauci had been about elite Washingtonians gathering in person for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last weekend.

13. It hasn’t been getting a lot of attention locally, but Hasbro is coming under pressure from an investment firm that owns 2.5% of its shares. Via Bloomberg’s Scott Deveau: “Alta Fox, the activist fund in the midst of a proxy battle with Hasbro Inc., is rallying other investors to vote against the re-election of the toy company’s chairman and two other board members at its annual meeting on June 8. … Alta Fox has argued that Hasbro is undervalued due to the influence of members of the founding Hassenfeld family, and general mismanagement. Haley said the company has rejected two takeover offers, in 1996 and 2010, that would have benefited shareholders.” (That 1996 takeover bid, from Mattel, was blocked in part by the aggressive efforts of Rhode Island elected officials.)

14. The cost of rent for a typical Providence apartment is up 24% since before the pandemic.

15. My colleague Amanda Pitts reports the Crescent Park Carousel may reopen this summer.

16. If you want to learn how to be like Eli Sherman — and who doesn’t? — be sure to watch the class about public records in Rhode Island that he put on for the New England First Amendment Coalition this week. You can watch the full video here.

17. This week on NewsmakersCongressman Auchincloss. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 or 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You can also subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you back here next Saturday.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook