PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has decided to return a campaign contribution he accepted three weeks ago from controversial state Rep. John Carnevale, his campaign said Wednesday.
Carnevale attended a fundraiser for the speaker’s re-election campaign on Sept. 19 and gave a donation of $120, according to a R.I. Board of Elections filing late Tuesday and Mattiello spokeswoman Patti Doyle.
The event was held at Tommy’s Pizza in Cranston, the speaker’s favorite restaurant. Carnevale attended the fundraiser with his girlfriend, who lives in Mattiello’s Cranston district, Doyle said.
“However, due to the circumstances, we are returning the check,” Doyle said in a statement Wednesday.
Carnevale, D-Providence, had been a member of Mattiello’s Democratic leadership team as vice-chairman of the House Finance Committee, but the speaker broke with him over the high-profile scandal involving whether he lived in his district.
Notably, the home address Carnevale gave to Mattiello for the Board of Elections filing was 150 Barbara St. in Providence – which is the same home where the Providence Board of Canvassers determined he did not live following a Target 12 investigation that raised serious questions about his residency.
Mattiello’s Republican challenger, Steven Frias, had quickly seized on the new connection between the speaker and Carnevale after it came to light Tuesday.
“I am surprised Speaker Mattiello would take money from John Carnevale, who has been under investigation by the State Police and deceived the voters as to where he lived,” Frias said in a statement. “Does Mattiello really believe Carnevale lives in a Providence basement? Mattiello should mail Carnevale’s check back to his real address in Johnston.”
Frias added: “Hopefully, Mattiello will not refuse and say ‘no story here.'”
Mattiello himself said just last week he does not believe Carnevale lives at 150 Barbara St., telling reporters at a news conference: “I get the frustration over John Carnevale. But he didn’t live where he said. That’s up to his constituents to figure out.”
Yet Carnevale himself has never admitted he doesn’t live at 150 Barbara St., though he declined to seek re-election after the canvassers stripped him of his voter registration during the summer.
Carnevale has not resigned his seat and remains a sitting lawmaker. Ed Fitzpatrick, a former Providence Journal staff writer, ran into him at a polling place in the district he represents on the day of the primary:
The new Board of Elections filings show Mattiello is vastly outspending Frias in their House District 15 race. Mattiello spent about $110,000 on his campaign from July 1 through Oct. 10, while Frias spent about $15,000. However, some of Mattiello’s expenses weren’t directly related to his own campaign, such as donations to other politicians.