Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- June 14, 2015


(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:

"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

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: MCM

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- June 7, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – I’m in the business of analyzing political data and making educated guesses (okay, predictions) on what an outcome might be. Many times I hit the target, and other times I miss my mark. Over all, though, my batting average is pretty good since I began doing this in 1978. After watching more Presidential candidates jump into the race last week, my prediction is this: "Lincoln Chafee will not be the next U.S. President." Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Timing Is Everything” – The premise of former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) wanting to be President rests in his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) supported. “We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive wars,” Chafee said. The oddity is that the Iraq war is over, with just a smattering of U.S. military advisors left there; and the force in Afghanistan is substantially reduced. The price tags are nowhere near what they were ten years ago. Chafee – in essence – is running against George W. Bush, who left office a long time ago. Chafee's Presidential bid would be like Bill Clinton running in 1992 against the record of President Ford. Tactically speaking, it’s just not a winning strategy.

“Take Me to Your Liter!” -- The U.S. and many other countries are facing threats from ISIS terrorists; many economies are still struggling from the world recession of 2008; and there are several global health concerns. This nation is looking for bold and broad new leadership, to which Chafee offered, “Let’s be bold. Here’s a bold embrace of internationalism: Let’s join the rest of the world and go metric.” He pointed out that Myanmar, Liberia and the United States are the only three nations in the world which don’t use the metric system. President Jimmy Carter was the last U.S. leader to pitch for metric, and that effort died with a giant thud.

“It’s All About the Base” – That’s a play on words about the recent hit song, “It’s All About the Bass.” But in politics, your “base” is critical to getting elected to everything from the city council to the White House. Your base is made up of your core supporters. Chafee was a long time Republican who angered his party and left. He then was elected Governor as an independent, only to turn his back on the independents and become a Democrat in his final 18 months in office. He was so unpopular he didn’t even seek his new party’s nomination for reelection. So after angering a wide swath of Republicans, independents and Democrats, who is his base? I submit he doesn’t have one.

“Old ‘What’s Her Name?’” – In his 13-minute campaign announcement and the ensuing 30 minutes of Q&A with students, the name "Hillary Clinton" never passed his lips. This was the closest he came: “As President, I would institute a ban on ambassadorships for sale. That means no more of these posts going to big political donors. I want the best-trained people doing this important work. And it is critical that the integrity of the office of Secretary of State never be questioned.” Folks, he’s an underdog at best, polling only one-percent of the vote right now. Any candidate has to come out swinging, because you just can’t “nice” talk your way into the White House. No one ever has, nor ever will.

“Oh, Boston, You’re My Home” – Chafee made a pitch for the United States to abolish the death penalty, but even liberal New England is not sympathetic these days. The vast majority of people here felt that convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death, and the jury agreed. In Rhode Island, Chafee fought the federal death penalty against convicted bank murderer Jason Pleau. Chafee’s side prevailed, even though public opinion was clearly against him. Trying to repeal the death penalty is hardly a populist stance, especially after Massachusetts and Rhode Island were the center of another terrorism plot this week. Chafee is likely losing votes, not gaining them with his opposition to the death penalty.

“Location, Location, Location!” – Chafee chose to kick off his campaign at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the White House. While he did serve eight years in the U.S. Senate, he was most recently the Governor of the Ocean State, so why not make the announcement in Rhode Island? Plain and simple, he was elected Governor with only 36 percent of the vote; and what popularity he had plummeted from there. There’s an old Congressional political bromide: If you make a mistake in DC, apologize at home; and if you make a mistake at home, apologize in DC. The idea is to distance yourself from the negative, which is probably why Chafee was far away from the Rhode Island State House.

“The Theater of Politics” – Linc Chafee’s foray into the Presidential race is not all negative. With former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also in the race – along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – we are hoping to see some feisty, entertaining debates. Chafee is likely to be the one who goes on the attack against Mrs. Clinton. She’s still the odds-on-favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but she’ll have to earn it without a free pass.

Who is your choice for the Democratic nomination for President? Click the comment but at and let us know!

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy:


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