(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy birthday to “The Sunday Political Brunch,” which is four years old today! I enjoy all the weekly political banter, and we are read by thousands across the nation each week, which is great. I want to address political corruption this week, since another Rhode Island political leader is on his way to prison. This state has had a history of leaders landing in jail, but is it any more corrupt than elsewhere? Lets “brunch” on that this week:
“The Fox Guards the State House” – Former House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-RI) was sentenced to three years in Federal prison this past week for taking more than $50,000 dollars in bribes while a member of the Providence Licensing Board (photo above). Fox expressed remorse and admitted what he had done was wrong. A lot of people in the Ocean State just shrugged their shoulders as if it were business as usual, because Fox is hardly alone.
“Third Time’s Not the Charm” – Commenting on the Fox matter this week was former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, who hosts a popular afternoon talk show on News/Talk Radio WPRO 630-AM. Cianci knows a bit about what Fox is going to encounter, as Cianci himself spent nearly five years in Federal prison on a single racketeering conviction during his second stint as Mayor of Providence. (Cianci had been forced to resign his first tenure as Mayor for assaulting a man whom he suspected of having an affair with his wife). Despite two convictions, Cianci ran for Mayor again in 2014, losing a competitive race with Jorge Elorza.
“The Three Stooges” – In 2010, just after I arrived in Rhode Island, three members of the North Providence Town Council were arrested and convicted of taking bribes in a zoning matter. One of their fellow council members got wind of the $25,000 bribe and turned snitch. All three went to Federal prison. A photo of the three I found posted in the Council Chambers showed one was balding, one had red hair, and the third had bushy black hair balding on top. People immediately started to say they resembled "The Three Stooges” from the old days of black and white film (and they did). Here’s a New York Times link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/25/us/25land.html?_r=o.
"Mr. Ed Goes to Prison" - Corruption can snag you even after you leave political office. Just ask former Governor Ed DiPrete (R-RI), who left office in 1991 after serving three terms. Seven years later he entered guilty pleas to bribery, racketeering and extortion charges stemming from contracts that were put out for bid while he was governor. He was sentenced to one year in prison.
"But Rhode Island and Illinois Are Twins" - Political corruption has no geographic boundaries. Take, for example, Illinois, where former Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) is still in prison. His predecessor, Governor George Ryan (R-IL) was paroled from prison a couple of years ago. Former Governor Otto Kerner (D-IL)was indicted and convicted of corruption; and former Governor Dan Walker (D-IL)was sent to prison for illegalities in his consulting work that occurred after his time in office. The bottom line: Illinois sent four sitting or former governors to prison in the 20th Century. No other state can claim that distinction!
"Yee Haw!" - Suspended State Senator Leland Yee (D-CA)is awaiting Federal trial on a host of charges, including bribery and gun-running related to an Islamic terorist group in the Philippines. Yee, who was a staunch gun control advocate, served in elective office for nearly twenty years. He was later charged with racketeering, accused of trying to shake down the unnamed owner of a National Football League team. I mention Yee because his is literally the public corruption case farthest from Rhode Island, which just goes to show it can happen anywhere – from coast to coast and right smack in the heartland.
“Underserved Reputation?” – I am often asked whether Rhode Island is worse than any other place when it comes to political corruption, and my answer is "No"! The dynamic is that Rhode Island is the smallest state, so everything that happens here gets magnified by the intense public spotlight. Other places, such as New Orleans, have just as many problems; but in much bigger states, such as Louisiana, Illinois and California, a lot of other issues are fighting for the headlines. Sometimes public corruption gets less notoriety there than it does in tiny Rhode Island.
What are your concerns about political corruption and how to stop it? Just post your comments at www.MarkCurtismedia.com.
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Photo courtesy: MCM