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Tyranny Out of Partisan Gripes

Read around social media for even a short time, particularly in Rhode Island, and you’ll come across a Never Trumper making some sort of claim that he must be impeached so future presidents don’t get the impression that they can do whatever they want.  Put aside that President Trump is, if anything, an improvement in this regard from his predecessor.

If folks are truly concerned about tyranny as the child of our political moment, statements like this ought to set off alarm sirens:

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The translation is that these things cannot be decided at the ballot box “for we cannot be sure that the vote will be won by us.”  With even Never Trump Republicans (or former Republicans) saying they don’t care who the Democrats nominate so long as they get rid of President Trump, the mission is clear.  Nothing matters to them but making sure the outcome they want is the outcome the United States gets.

If Mr. Schiff is concerned about the integrity of our elections, then that’s where his attention should be focused.  As it is, he’s being either recklessly ignorant or horrifically welcoming of an obvious consequence of his self-proclaimed mandate:  Namely, if differences like this are not decided at the ballot box, sooner or later, they will be decided in the streets, with blood.

Avoiding that outcome is the basic underlying principle of our republic.

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The Miracle of Good-Government Policy in RI

In intellectual discussion at the intersection of religion and science, participants sometimes propose to define miracles as extremely improbable events that happen at a significant time, such that the significance itself appears to have influenced the outcome.  If, for example, there is some infinitesimal chance that an incurable disease will just go away and does after the patient prays at some holy shrine, then that might meet the definition of “miracle.”

In a somewhat crass way, this definition came to mind while reading about the state legislature’s audit of the RI Convention Center following the center’s investigation of the speaker’s friend:

“The JCLS has an obligation to meet and determine exactly why an audit was ordered of the Convention Center after Mr. Demers got in trouble at his job,” [RIGOP Chairwoman Susan] Cienki said. “The public deserves to know if government resources are being used by Speaker Mattiello to satisfy a petty personal grudge. If the JCLS won’t meet and explain what is going on, then perhaps the attorney general should investigate.”

Mattiello’s spokesperson, Larry Berman, pushed back at Cienki by pointing out that House Republicans, notably former Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, have been calling for better oversight of the Convention Center’s finances for years. He sent Target 12 multiple press releases and news reports in which Morgan laid out her criticisms.

One gets the sense that this has become the way that Republican, conservative, or just good-government policies find their way miraculously into state law and activity.  It is improbable that a Republican’s call to audit a government agency will be heeded in Rhode Island… except at that significant moment when it serves the interest of some powerful interest for ulterior reasons.

Makes one wonder if there’s a list of policy proposals out there awaiting some direct pay-off before they are implemented, with the fact that somebody (or some party) suggested them used as cover.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Budgets and Politics

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 20, included talk about:

  • The governor’s budget (and popularity)
  • The speaker’s interest in the Convention Center
  • The women’s march
  • Big money state jobs, especially corrections

I’ll be on again Monday, January 27, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Municipal Government Moves to the Back Room

With the old establishment players back in power in Tiverton, we’ve seen a quick return to the practices that have done so much damage to local government over the decades.  Decisions are being made by a few, unidentified people in back rooms and private communications.  New hoops are being erected for community groups to jump through.  The law is being rewritten by the minute depending on what the Town Council leadership needs it to be.  The council’s votes are becoming mere recommendations unless approved by the president.

Members of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) talk about that and more on Episode 9 of the Tiverton on Track podcast.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Doubting the People in Charge

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 13, included talk about:

  • A union president accuses race heretics
  • OPEB swamping Providence and Warwick
  • Fear about “red flag” laws
  • The legislative session starts
  • RI losing claim to a Congressional seat,
  • The rolling fundraising party of the State House

Open post for full audio.

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Local Podcast Kicks Off Budget Season

For those in and out of Tiverton who have some interest in the politics and budget process of the town, the latest episode of the Tiverton on Track podcast of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) covers that ground:

Track 1: The Gander Hires a Solicitor
Track 2: Passing the Joint… Meeting
Track 3: What’s the Plan?
Track 4: How the Budget Thing Works

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Bad Positions for Political Actors

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 6, included talk about:

  • RI Congressmen’s bad alignment with the enemy
  • Projo points to key issues for the legislature
  • Linc finds another party to run with
  • RI pols try to get out of the way of the Census

Open post for full audio.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: RI’s Avoidance of Real Problems

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 30, included talk about:

  • Elorza’s interest in being governor
  • Causes and effects of Providence Mall brawls
  • Disappointment in Raimondo’s failure to succeed
  • Stephen Skoly’s warning about opioid nannyism

Open post for full audio.

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The Draw of Political Violence

The Democrat Congress produced a sham impeachment of President Trump the day after the “secretive court that approves sensitive surveillance issued a rare public rebuke of the FBI on Tuesday, saying the bureau misled the Justice Department and the court when it sought permission to wiretap a former Trump campaign aide.”  Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had to shush her members to stop their shouts of glee at what they had done, thus cheering away any pretense that this was anything other than a political stunt.

A somber moment of answering the call of history to preserve the nation?  Ha!  Anybody who has watched this travesty play out over three years has known since the last election that this was coming.  This is not evidence of the competence of the speaker, as some want to see it.  Had she failed to answer the three-year-old calls of her rabid base for this moment, it would have been a political disaster.  And having failed to use her power responsibly, it is now a moral failure.

A bad situation for her and dangerous times for all of us.

Also yesterday, the Providence Journal gave this headline to an AP article, “MMA fighter says victory over Trump supporter was for the ‘entire world’”:

Kamaru Usman sent a bloodied, bleary Colby Covington spiraling to the ground for the second time. Usman then leaped on him and went to work on Covington’s badly injured face, battering his dazed opponent with hammer fists until the referee mercifully intervened.

Although he had to wait until the final minute, Usman settled his very personal feud with his sharply divisive challenger in perhaps the most satisfying way possible.

“This one is not just for me,” Usman said. “This is for the whole entire world right now.”

The article goes on to explain that antipathy toward Covington is much more about him, personally, than about the President of the United States.  That puts a spotlight on the irresponsible decision of the press to play up a political angle.  They are encouraging violence.

It is unfortunate, in that context, that the last name of the “Trump supporter” is the same as the high school whose Trump-supporting students became the target of a national two minutes of hate, last year.  The coincidence of these names gives the impression of a divine author who is making His connections almost too obvious.  Shame on us if we can’t figure out the lesson.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Progressive Pressure

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 16, included talk about:

  • The governor’s Projo interview
  • Where’s all the money go… in Providence and RI?
  • Progressives’ state-killing tax proposal
  • Women’s caucus: another progressive organization

Open post for full audio.

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Chris Maxwell: Tolls – Connecticut’s Governor Continues to Stumble and Bumble Like a Fox

First Circuit Court Decision Stokes Urgency to Pass Truck-Only Tolls and Begin Gantry Roll-Out

Dead wrong as she may be, at least Governor Gina Raimondo made a decision and stuck with a plan. Her indecisive counterpart next door in the Nutmeg State, Ned Lamont, seems to change his mind on how and who he will toll on a weekly basis.

Governor Lamont’s latest maneuver has Connecticut poised to pass truck-only tolls as emergency legislation in the wake of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week giving jurisdiction on the American Trucking Associations’ challenge to RhodeWorks truck-only tolls back to the federal court.

In an interview Sunday, WTNH’s Chief Political Correspondent, Mark Davis, asked Lamont the following:

One year ago today, five weeks after the election, I asked you if you were still committed to the trucks only tolls, you said you were. About six or eight weeks later you changed your mind and included passenger cars. Last month, you went back to trucks only. Don’t you think that’s a problem for a Governor and a politician?

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A Far-Reaching Conversation on State of the State

State of the State co-host Richard August invited me on for a full hour of the show to cover a broad range of topics, from Tiverton’s recall election to broad political philosophy.

12-9-19 A Different View of Matters from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

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Rhode Island motorists could find new gasoline taxes in their stockings

This Christmas season, Gov. Gina Raimondo could be the Grinch who stole affordable gasoline. If the Raimondo administration gets its way and bypasses the General Assembly to sign on to a new regional carbon-tax scheme, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), Rhode Island motorists will find a plan to increase gasoline taxes in their stockings this year.

TCI is a cap-and-trade tax on gasoline proposed by environmental extremists who purposely want gasoline to become so expensive — estimated at an extra 24 cents per gallon — that you will be financially forced to walk or bike to work and around town.

Like all far-left contrivances to reduce carbon emissions, TCI, a green-new-deal-type gas tax, will harm economic growth and will take money out of your pocket. Rhode Island already suffers from an Ocean State Exodus, where far too many of our children and loved ones, business investors, and neighbors are leaving for lower-cost living in other states. The TCI tax would be one more piece of coal that will drive people out of state (pun intended).

Most Rhode Islanders want a balanced approach, where there are multiple choices for abundant and affordable energy. But green-Grinches in government want to limit your options, and will force you to pay expensive new taxes if you make the wrong choice.

Only the General Assembly can raise taxes. Fortunately, the governor cannot unilaterally impose a new tax on gasoline without legislative approval. But the governor has purposely tried to keep this TCI tax under the radar. Her team has been working stealthily with unelected bureaucrats at TCI to advance the imposition of gas taxes among 12 Northeast states.

Did you know that the really high electricity prices we pay, among the highest in the country, are partly because of a different regional cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)? RGGI imposes tax-like fees on electricity power plants, which, of course, get passed on to you. Unfortunately, RGGI has been a complete failure; it has significantly increased the cost of electricity but has resulted in no added emissions reductions!

And now they want to try the same failed idea on gasoline with a TCI gas tax. Like RGGI, TCI is designed to increase the cost of fossil-based fuel so much, that families like yours — and businesses where you work — will be forced to use less of it.

Part of the RGGI and TCI schemes is that the extra money you pay at the gas pumps and on your electric bill is supposed to be spent by participating states on energy projects that are favored by greenie Grinches. Rhode Islanders understand that it is patently unfair for government subsidies to be handed-out to benefit a specific industry or company … at the expense of everyone else.

History has proven that too many government regulations and taxes on energy mean that the beneficial use of America’s rich natural resources might be put out of reach for many. Worse, such government imposed taxes as the RGGI tax and the TCI tax are regressive; they disproportionately harm low-income families who already struggle to pay heating bills and gasoline costs.

Also, many businesses, similarly burdened with higher energy costs, will be forced to reduce employee work hours, cut jobs, or even shut down and move to another state.

The secrecy must end now. The governor should have been more transparent about an issue that will cause economic hardship for many. I call on Ms. Raimondo to reject the TCI tax plan, expected out on Dec. 17; and I call on Senate and House leadership to ensure there is a robust public debate about whether you and I should pay higher gasoline taxes.

RGGI has failed miserably … and TCI is also doomed for failure. Why should any Grinch force any of us to pay unnecessarily higher gasoline taxes if it will not result in any environmental benefit?

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Many Forms of Political Performance Art

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 9, included talk about:

  • Cicilline v. Trump
  • Energy protesters at the State House
  • Empty Wexford
  • Sports gambling lawsuit goes forward
  • Truck toll lawsuit goes forward
  • The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) tax

Open post for full audio.

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Hyperlocal Podcasting to Hold the Power-Hungry Accountable in Tiverton

People who are politically active locally in Rhode Island — especially those who aren’t plugged in to the state’s special interest, insider machine — may have noticed that technology and the general direction of our culture are making it increasingly difficult to get information to rise above the noise of social media and its amplification of the old-school rumor mill.

One way in which the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) is working to address that problem is through its new weekly podcast, Tiverton on Track.  Episodes will be available as they’re released on BuzzsproutiTunesSpotifyStitcherTuneIn, and a variety of other services that can be found via the Buzzsprout page.  Episodes will also be posted on the group’s blog, Tiverton Fact Check.

For the most recent episode, special guest Richard Rom joined me and Town Council members Donna Cook and Nancy Driggs.  Rom is the chairman of the Tiverton Republican Town Committee, a member of the Tiverton Library Board of Trustees, and the initiator of recall petitions to remove council President Patricia Hilton, Vice President Denise deMedeiros, and member John Edwards the Fifth.  Rom’s goal is to return the council to the TTA control that voters chose before the political stunt of an unjustified recall election in October that removed me and the council president.  (Note that I’m not involved in the second recall, thinking there are more effective ways to spend time holding the power-hungry of Tiverton accountable.)

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Political Monday with John DePetro: A Creature of Their Own Making

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 25, included talk about:

  • Insider Alves and the radical caucus
  • The union view of employer responsibility
  • Gaspee versus campaign finance laws
  • Paint on the statute becoming blood on government’s hands
  • Blood on the police officer’s hand gets a slap on the wrist

Open post for full audio.

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The Political Fashionableness of Latin

By way of some morning levity, I thought I’d pass along this headline from the Fall River Herald that caught my eye: “For classicists, ‘quid pro quo’ is music to the ears,” for a story from the Washington Post news wire.

They could have chosen “this for that.” Or possibly even “tit for tat.” But instead, Democrats and Republicans alike decided to go with “quid pro quo” as the defining term for the central accusation of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

They disagree, of course, on whether an illegal quid pro quo occurred, but have embraced the alliterative Latin phrase as the lingua franca for the debate. Now all that remains is the ultimate political thumbs up or thumbs down decision.

For people thoroughly convinced that the mainstream news media is — to varying degrees depending on region — an active wing of the Democrat Party machine, articles like this appear to be a sly effort to push impeachment.  The presentation is of a light article about linguistic fashion, but what it accomplishes, politically, is to give readers the sense that the impeachment effort is about something real (the Democrat position) and to explain a key phrase for people who aren’t familiar with it.

My awareness of this phrase goes back at least 25 years, for a reason that affects my impression of the news media’s efforts.  During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, news stories were repeatedly framed so as to make him seem out of touch.  One example was a news cycle about how he’d been like a stranger in a strange land at a grocery store, when really he’d been expressing due admiration for some new checkout technology that was cutting edge at the time.

I remember distinctly the coloring of the press when President Bush stated, in response to some faux scandal, “There was no quid pro quo.”  The implied commentary of the news media was so strong as to carry across decades of memory:  “What is this strange phrase, and who even talks like that?”

Vulpes pilum mutat, non mores.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Hints of a Constitutional Crisis

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 18, included talk about:

  • Raimondo fundraising as governance
  • The governor sues the General Assembly
  • Municipalities sue the state government
  • Protestors’ liberal-meeting interruptions
  • Cranston seeks investigation of another department

Open post for full audio.

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Rhode Island’s Very Own Green New Deal

How much more money can Rhode Island’s political class take from your pocket using green energy as an excuse?

The Ocean State has already signed on to the Transport and Climate Initiative, a cabal of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states designed to foster a radical change (for the worse) to our economic well-being through costly green energy policies.

Indeed, this very well could be Rhode Island own version of the “Green New Deal,” driving costs higher and higher.

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The Outside Cash the Governor Needs to Govern

Sometimes a politician answers a question in such a way as to put her political activities (and those of other politicians) in a different light.  Such was the case when reporter Tim White asked Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo on WPRI’s Newsmakers program about her continued fundraising, despite being term limited as governor:

I’ll have a legislative agenda that I’d like to get passed.  All the legislators are on the ballot next year, and I may decide to support or oppose legislators that I think are doing the right thing or holding Rhode Island back.  So, you know, there are plenty of reasons to need a campaign account just to govern.

According to WPRI’s Ted Nesi, Raimondo raised $66,000 in the third quarter of the year, giving her $726,000 to expend as she “governs.”

Put this way, doesn’t something seem… well… off about this arrangement?  The governor of the state is collecting money from private interests in order to bully other elected officials into doing what she wants, as if the governor is also the director of an insider PAC.  A few thousand dollars is a pretty substantial campaign in local legislative races, so a governor with three quarters of a million dollars in the bank and nothing else to spend it on could be a worrying wildcard.

To be sure, we should be skeptical of efforts to restrict political activity through regulation.  The powerful will always find ways around the regulations, at least to a greater extent than the powerless can.

That said, it’s worth being aware that this is going on and maintaining a general sense of aversion to it.  What the governor of the state is saying is that she’s going to use money given to her by special interests across the country to reach into your local legislative races to influence who represents you in the General Assembly.

Something doesn’t seem right about that.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Connecting Political Dots

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 11, included talk about:

  • The problem of public sector pensions
  • The value of the Fung brand for the Mrs.
  • Mayor Pete’s no-media, no-controversy event
  • Nanny Bloomberg and Gina’s RFP
  • No warning on the homeless transplants

Open post for full audio.

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The Example the Teachers Set

“Imagine that! Teachers sending out postcards with a picture of violence to silence others in town.”  Tiverton Town Council member Donna Cook makes that statement in a new letter to the editor informing people about some facts from the recent recall election in town (which knocked me out of office).

She’s referring to one of the five mailings that the recall advocates sent to homes in Tiverton.  The return address claims that it comes from “Progress RI,” which although not registered appears to be a “doing business as” name of the state’s teachers unions.  The return address is that of a middle school teacher in town. And this is the front of the card, which Cook describes as “a violent picture similar to a kidnapping, hijacking, robbery, or a hostage situation.”

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Note that the claim at the top of the card is demonstrably false; it’s a lie.

While recording an episode of a soon-to-be-released local podcast, Cook contrasted this card with all of the talk we hear from those in the education system about bullying.  That’s an important contrast that isn’t made often enough in our world of hostile politics and toxic social media.

Imagine a high school student sending out something similar on social media about other students.  Nobody would have any trouble seeing that as inappropriate bullying, and the student would face consequences, probably including suspension.

Of course, we rightly balance freedom of speech versus the giving of offense differently for children and adults.  Grown-ups should be able to handle more, and society has less right to impose restrictions on them, at least in an official way.  Still, this card was sent out by teachers in our public schools, behind a thin veil of anonymity and the thin excuse that it actually came from their labor union.

Is that the sort of standard we want for our nation, state, and community?

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A Sign of Raimondo’s National Focus

I’m contributing to a new blog on the Gaspee Project, Sabin Tavern.  The name and purpose are explained in the blog’s first post, but basically, Sabin Tavern leans into politics, whereas the Ocean State Current leans into policy.

A post from last night is about a political circumstance that certainly has relevance for policy — namely, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s obvious focus on her national future rather than her present obligations:

If Rhode Island’s governor weren’t more interested in her DGA role than in running her state, she might not be so “ecstatic” [about her party’s apparent victory in the Kentucky governor’s race]. After all, Matt Bevin is one of two governors keeping her from being the least-approved-of governor in the country. (She’s already the most disapproved.)

As the post also points out, Rhode Islanders might rightfully wonder whether our governor is setting policy in her own state so as to advance the interests of her party in other states.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: The Essence of RI Corruption

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 4, included talk about:

  • Jeff Britt in court (with Nicholas Mattiello looming)
  • Brett Smiley in the news (with Gina Raimondo bumbling into ever-bigger controversy)
  • The Board of Elections in the market for a lease (with Stephen Erickson running interference)
  • Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in a symbolic role (with the RI system setting the standard for corruption)

Open post for full audio.

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Doubts About Election Integrity

WNRI radio talk host John DePetro posted a bombshell on his Web site Sunday:

[An anonymous Board of Elections officer] described the ballot situation during the 2018 election as “completely void of integrity.” According to O1, there are “no checks and balances” for who is being registered to vote and who is casting the vote.

“It is extremely upsetting, frustrating and frankly I feel terrible about the current conditions, but we simply don’t know what to do. I do my job the best I can and we have very dedicated professionals working to improve the system but it is basically out of our hands. The amount of ballot harvesting has gone to a higher level and we simply are not equipped to handle it or process it to ensure all votes are legitimate. Campaign workers are finding people, registering them to vote, presenting a mail ballot and then delivering the ballot to the BOE. The opportunity for manipulation of the vote is egregious. During the 2018 election season there were thousands of mail ballots being cast, and I mean thousands, that we knew were wrong but there is simply no mechanism in place to take proper corrective measures to stop it. On one street in the city (Providence) there were over 600 mail ballots and I honestly don’t believe one of those votes should have been counted.”

The officer estimates the number at 20,000, which could easily affect the outcome of an election, especially in local or General Assembly races.  The question is:  What should be done?

First of all, enough people should express their concern that happy talk from a Board of Elections member is not enough.  Second, the Board of Elections and maybe the state police should begin an investigation of the mail ballots.  Much of this process is new, and it would be reasonable for government officials to allocate some resources to make sure it’s working as intended.

We hear again and again that there is no evidence of voter fraud, but evidence can never be found if officials never look for it.  The idea simply is not credible that elections are pristine in a state in which the House speaker’s campaign contractor is currently under indictment for money laundering to affect the outcome of a political race.

We need a transparent investigation, now, so that Rhode Islanders’ trust in their elections doesn’t erode any farther.