The reality is that, if they wanted to do so, every news outlet in Rhode Island could hire a full-time staff member to write follow-the-money stories like Katherine Gregg’s in today’s Providence Journal and not run out of content for a long, long time:
The $225,000 bounced from here to there several times before a big chunk of this General Assembly-approved grant — for which no Rhode Island lawmaker takes credit — landed at the doorstep of the State House lobbying firm that hired Keith Stokes.
However, the most disturbing part of the whole story is this one:
Asked how the money got into this year’s budget, [Finance Committee chairman, Democrat Raymond Gallison (Bristol, Portsmouth)] said: “It’s just been in the budget since 2002, and we just continued it.”
Fourteen or 15 years ago, some legislator slipped this money for the Newport Chamber of Commerce into the budget. Children who entered kindergarten that year are well into college now, and yet the General Assembly just assumes the money should keep going where it’s going. How many more grants are there like that? How many grants and other expenditures are simply renewed every year even though they no longer go to anything like their original purpose?
When we start slicing the budget to the level of a few hundred thousand dollars, I suspect we’d find huge amounts of the money targeted to specific jobs for favored insiders — some of them insiders of yesteryear. Yet, if the General Assembly begins demanding justification for the money every single year, it will no longer provide permanent funding streams, meaning that the current insiders won’t be able to trust that their own patronage won’t go away once a new wave of insiders comes in and begins divvying up the spoils.