PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis said Wednesday his office is investigating whether former state Rep. Ray Rickman violated Rhode Island’s lobbying laws by extending a personal loan to former House Speaker Gordon Fox.
“Our office has already done some preliminary research on this matter, and will be corresponding with Mr. Rickman to acquire further details as to the date of the loan extended to Mr. Fox, and any outstanding balance, and any other details which may be pertinent in any year when Mr. Rickman was a registered lobbyist,” Mollis said in a statement.
“If it is determined that Mr. Rickman failed to file the appropriate reports with our office, I will take all necessary action so that Mr. Rickman complies with the law,” he said.
Personal financial disclosures filed last month by Fox, who resigned as speaker in March but is still a state representative, revealed that Rickman loaned him money in 2009. Rickman, who has been a registered lobbyist in recent years, told the Associated Press he gave Fox the loan due to their longstanding personal relationship.
Nellie Gorbea, a Democratic candidate running to succeed Mollis as secretary of state, sent him a letter on Wednesday urging him to investigate whether Rickman’s loan to Fox violated the laws governing lobbyists.
“As a concerned citizen and as a candidate for secretary of state I am dedicated to making Rhode Island government transparent and accountable to the public,” Gorbea wrote in the letter. “Violations of our state’s lobbying statutes need to be addressed swiftly if we are to restore the faith of Rhode Islanders in our government.”
Gorbea’s campaign also seized on the revelation about Rickman to criticize Guillaume De Ramel, her opponent in the Democratic primary for secretary of state. Rickman held a meet-and-greet for De Ramel’s campaign at Metro Cafe in Providence on June 24.
Dave Hoffman, De Ramel’s campaign manager, declined to comment directly on the propriety of Rickman’s loan to Fox or Mollis’s investigation. He emphasized that De Ramel, who is independently wealthy, is not accepting contributions to his campaign from registered lobbyists.
“Guillaume proposed the strongest plan to restore confidence in government and fundamentally transform the way our state does business to make sure Rhode Islanders are protected from anything like 38 Studios from happening again,” Hoffman said.
De Ramel isn’t the only Democratic candidate whom Rickman is publicly backing this year. Rickman was on hand to support gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell’s campaign kickoff in January, and he gave a nominating speech for Seth Magaziner, a candidate for general treasurer, at the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s endorsement convention last month.
The Rickman contretemps is the second high-profile examination of potential lobbying violations that Mollis’s office has launched in recent weeks. A Target 12 investigation in May forced Mollis to look at whether Michael Corso, a lawyer and tax-credit broker, illegally lobbied state officials as part of the 38 Studios deal.