PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former longtime state lawmaker who lost her re-election race last year has been fined $6,000 after an audit discovered a series of campaign spending violations.
The R.I. Board of Elections levied the fine on former state Sen. Elizabeth “Betty” Crowley, D-Central Falls, who represented Senate District 16 from 2008 to 2020. She was defeated in last year’s primary by a progressive challenger, now-Sen. Jonathon Acosta.
Richard Thornton, the Board of Elections’ director of campaign finance, initiated the audit last April after noticing that some campaign expenses listed in Crowley’s year-end report for 2019 were not reflected on her campaign account’s bank statement, according to his report to the board.
After reviewing Crowley’s campaign contributions and expenditures for 2016 through 2020, Thornton identified a long list of violations.
Those included $3,045 in deposits not reported on campaign-finance reports; nearly $15,000 in cash withdrawals and fees that could only be tied to $3,722 in valid campaign expenses; at least $4,000 in campaign expenses paid for out of a non-campaign account; and overall poor record-keeping.
Reached by 12 News, Crowley acknowledged the issues but insisted that she had not used any of the money for personal expenses.
“My regret is that I’m a sloppy bookkeeper,” she said.
Crowley, 69, said she frequently gave campaign cash to homeless individuals on the street corners near the State House or back in her district.
“What I would be doing is if you had a sign, if you were homeless, I’d give you $20, $25, maybe $40 — whatever it was that you needed,” she said. “So I didn’t get a receipt from you, so I can’t prove that. But I’m not going to go around herding up all the people I gave money to, because that would be fruitless.”
Still, she added, “I did wrong, and I admit it.”
Crowley is required to pay the $6,000 fine in three annual installments of $2,000 by the end of 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram