Group wants changes to fight RI political corruption

Members of the Rhode Island State Police were at the office and home of House Speaker Gordon Fox on March 21, 2014.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Unfortunately, the federal criminal charges of former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox — bribery and misusing campaign funds — are just the latest chapter in a long history of political corruption in Rhode Island. The group Common Cause Rhode Island wants to make changes to the system to stop the corruption.

“If you put in place a better system, if you can constantly try to improve it, you’re going to cut down” on corruption, said Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion on Tuesday night.

There are good people in political office, Marion said, but the way the system is currently set up, it allows a few greedy people to take advantage of it.

The group is non-partisan, and strategizes for an ethical government; their view is that steps can be taken right now to hold politicians more accountable.

One important fix would be to require routine auditing of the General Assembly’s campaign finance reports, Marion said: “In terms of the audit, that takes time, that takes money, is that money there for this to be done?… It’s going to take a little bit of money. I don’t think it’s going to take a LOT of money.”

The current House Speaker, Nicholas Mattiello, agrees that there needs to be accountability. He said Tuesday he’s already been thinking of ways to better the campaign finance filing system. “I don’t audit all of my members’ reports, and evidently nobody else does.”

One thing he’s considering is to add Assembly members’ bank statements to the reports, “so you know if any money is missing from the report. Right now, you would never know from the information provided on the report,” he said.

Mattiello added he doesn’t want to make changes just for the sake of making changes, but wants the changes made to make sense.

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