Ted Nesi’s Saturday Morning Post: May 7


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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 @tednesi on Twitter.

1. Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Tim White’s phone and mine blew up simultaneously with urgent messages saying the State House was being raided. Coming on the heels of Ray Gallison’s shock resignation Tuesday – and just two years after the Gordon Fox raids – the tip hardly seemed far-fetched. So we were ready to jump into breaking-news mode until I reached House spokesman Larry Berman, who told me law-enforcement officers were at the State House for an event – not a raid. Still, that’s where Rhode Island is right now: when officers are spotted at the State House, the assumption is they’re raiding legislative offices for evidence. My tweet swatting down talk of a raid led one follower to reply, “The fact that this even needs to be said shows how screwed up Rhode Island is right now.” Indeed. The state’s always-active political rumor mill has been in overdrive all week, as insiders swap thinly sourced gossip about the Gallison case and darkly hint that others are involved in whatever wrongdoing allegedly took place. No wonder lawmakers’ morale is low. “You saw the room after the Democratic caucus,” Republican Rep. Dan Reilly said on this week’s Newsmakers. “It was like a funeral.” But he also said the reaction to Gallison’s troubles has been different from after the Fox raids. “There is this air hanging over the chamber, and I think it’s because most people realize we are taking a really bad reputational hit,” he said. The latest black eye for the State House could hardly come at a worse time for Democratic lawmakers, who’d hoped to finish the session quietly and with minimal controversy as they look toward the September primaries and November elections. So much for that idea.

2. Tim White offers his take on what to expect next in the Ray Gallison case: “When federal agents and state police detectives conducted those stunning daytime raids on Gordon Fox’s State House office and home back in March 2014, many thought criminal charges would soon follow. They did come, as we know now – but not until almost a year later. It’s important to look to the Fox investigation when trying to determine what will happen next in the case swirling around Gallison. If they would talk on the record, even federal investigators would likely acknowledge they can’t say for sure where this will take them or what the timeline is. The Fox probe started as a campaign-finance abuse case, but in the course of examining that issue, the authorities uncovered another misdeed: a bribe. Law enforcement sources tell me the investigation into Gallison includes allegations of prostitution, but the scope of what they’re examining is wider than that. We’ve also learned investigators searched Gallison’s home in March – it may be telling that that’s the same month agents stormed into Fox’s life.”

3. How did the millions of taxpayer dollars funneled to Ray Gallison’s nonprofit actually get spent? “That’s a good question,” a former employee told Tim White on Friday. Read her interview here.

4. Ray Gallison made sure to bring up a nonprofit he was affiliated with during his first meeting with DLT’s new director last year: “Chairman Gallison mentioned Man Up as a group doing good work but he did not explicitly ask for funding for Man Up,” per a spokesman. Before long, though, Man Up received nearly $250,000 from DLT – even though in one case it didn’t qualify for funding under existing rules. Read that story here.

5. Advocates are hotly anticipating the introduction of Speaker Mattiello’s ethics legislation on Tuesday, especially since the Ray Gallison case has increased pressure on legislative leaders to put a bill on Governor Raimondo’s desk before they head home for the year to face voters. John Marion, Common Cause’s indefatigable leader, said as of Friday he hadn’t been shown a draft of the legislation but described himself as “hopeful” that the bill will be one his organization could accept. The issue of restoring full R.I. Ethics Commission oversight over lawmakers has been a political hot potato for seven years now, but this may be a moment where Assembly leaders decide something needs to actually pass both chambers.

6. Speaker Mattiello seemed somewhat beaten down by the time he addressed reporters about Ray Gallison’s resignation late Tuesday. His predecessor, Gordon Fox, served four years as speaker before criminal charges brought him down; the prior two speakers, Bill Murphy and John Harwood, held the job for seven and nine years, respectively. So I asked Mattiello how long he expects to hold onto the gavel. “There will come a time when it’s appropriate for someone else to transition into the position and to step away. I’m far away from there,” he replied. “I still have a lot of energy. I love the job. I’ve got a lot of runway ahead of me. And I think we’re moving the state in the right direction.” He admitted the speakership is “tiring” and “all-consuming,” but declared: “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

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7. During Tuesday’s news conference, Speaker Mattiello dismissed the idea that headlines about a top lawmaker resigning amid a prostitution investigation would make it harder for incumbent House Democrats to hold onto their seats this fall. “Do I worry? No,” he said. “I always believe that each member has their own relationship with their community and if you serve them appropriately, our communities know that.” In fact, Mattiello went on to flash a little bravado about his members’ chances: “Do I think there’s going to be any changes? Yes – I think the Democrats are going to pick up seats,” he said. “I’m very bullish. I think we’ve been serving the public appropriately, our policies are better than they ever have, and we’re moving in the right direction.”

8. Governor Raimondo’s office says she’s had a longstanding policy in place to reimburse taxpayers for parts of her official travel that involve campaign events such as fundraisers. That disclosure came Friday after it emerged that she (unsurprisingly) held a fundraiser while on the West Coast this week. Read the story here. Raimondo is now sitting on $1 million in her campaign account, with two-and-a-half years to go before her re-election race. (What the governor’s office didn’t disclose: was a meeting with PayPal on her calendar for the California trip?)

9. Our weekly Saturday Morning Post dispatch from Dan McGowan: “Nine months after the Elorza administration restructured Providence’s fire department, the relationship between the mayor’s office and the firefighters’ union has devolved into a state of denial, as city officials refuse to accept blame for mistakes made on their end and firefighters opt for easy cheap shots on social media over more meaningful discussions. Here’s what we know: 1) The move from four platoons to three has not generated savings this fiscal year; the city has repeatedly indicated it will end the year over budget in the fire department. 2) The mayor’s proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year earmarks just $73,000 in savings in the department. 3) The two sides are nowhere near an agreement over how much to pay firefighters for increasing their average work week from 42 hours to 56 hours. Everyone is now waiting on a City Council-led study of the fire department conducted by MMA Consulting Group, but it’s unclear when the report will be released. Why is that study so important? It’s expected to give city officials their first look at another way to try to reduce spending in the department: cutting minimum manning and potentially closing fire stations. There appears to be a general consensus that the city could operate with fewer than 94 firefighters on duty at all times, but reaching that type of agreement with the union will likely take an extension of the current contract, which is set to expire June 30, 2017. Until that report is released, the holding pattern will continue.”

10. Whatever happened to Joe Mollicone? Find out Monday at 5 p.m. on WPRI 12 when Tim White takes a look back at the banking crisis that struck Rhode Island 25 years ago.

11. “I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s very nice. It’s called Block Island. And it’s about 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.” That’s how MSNBC host Rachel Maddow started a recent segment on the story about the ferry rushing ballots to New Shoreham for last month’s primary. It’s near the bottom of this transcript.

12. The Atlantic offers 11 signs a city will succeed.

13. RIFuture has two remembrances of the activist-priest Daniel Berrigan, who was famously arrested on Block Island in 1970 and who died this week. Here’s one from Bob Plain and here’s one from Jerry Elmer.

14. A public service announcement: don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day!

15. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – a look at the fallout from the Ray Gallison resignation with Reps. Dan Reilly and Blake Filippi, as well as Common Cause’s John Marion. This week on Executive Suite – Cumberland Farms CEO Ari Haseotes. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Catch both shows back-to-back on your radio Sunday nights at 6 on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. And you can subscribe to both shows as iTunes podcasts – click here for Executive Suite and click here for Newsmakers. See you back here next Saturday morning.Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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