Corruption as Central to Rhode Island’s Economy


There’s something frustratingly telling about James Bessette’s Independent article on one project that former Democrat Representative Donald Lally undertook when he was working his revolving-door-skirting job within the administration of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.

Taking the politics out of it, the story is about Harvey Cataldo’s ridiculous difficulty trying to clear all of the bureaucratic obstacles to open an oyster business.  “I’m good at looking at this stuff on the internet and I could not find a place that said ‘OK, I have to get this, this and this, and then do this, go back and I can have my license,'” he said.

Enter Lally, whose hiring attracted a great deal of attention in September because of its tinge of patronage and with whose political campaigns Cataldo has been involved since the 1980s.

In a Sept. 2 email to Rhode Island Commerce Corp. executives, including Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, DBR Director Macky McCleary said Lally was “doing yeoman’s work” helping Cataldo, owner of Bluff Hill Cove Oyster Company, “through the complicated permitting process across several agencies.”

“Just want to give kudos,” McCleary wrote.

What we see, here, is a progressive bureaucratic system that has become so out of whack that a business owner has to rely, for legitimate activity, on his connection to a politician who was given a government job under the shadow of corruption.  It’s the perfect melding of ordinary economic activity with crony corruption, and even though it’s obviously a peculiar case, it ought to open eyes around the state.

The story won’t open many eyes, though, because most people won’t ever come across it and among those who do, a sizable percentage like things just the way they are because the status quo advantages them through either knowing a guy or being the guy to know.