Gordon Fox is repaying $109K to campaign account he stole from

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Disgraced former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox has started repaying the $109,000 he admitted to stealing from his campaign account while he was in office, Target 12 has learned.

Fox served more than two years in federal prison for accepting $52,500 in bribes from the owners of a Thayer Street restaurant in exchange for helping them obtain a liquor license in 2008 and using campaign funds to cover personal expenses. He made a $100 restitution payment to Friends of Gordon Fox on Dec. 22, according to Albin Moser, one of his attorneys.

“He is paying the money back into the account so that it can be used for the limited purposes it was supposed to be used for,” Moser wrote in an email. “Not for personal expenses.”

Fox, a Providence Democrat who served in the House from 1993 until 2015, is not required to return any of the political contributions he received during his time in office. His 2015 federal sentence ordered him to repay the campaign account, but did not set any rules on how the money must be used.

“There is no way to tie in specific amounts taken by Mr. Fox to specific donors,” Jim Martin, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office, told Target 12. “There would be no way to proportion the funds. Rhode Island state law dictates how campaign monies can be distributed.”

Richard Thornton, director of campaign finance for the R.I. Board of Elections, said state law allows campaign funds to be donated to candidates for office or political committees; transferred to new political action committees or for ballot question advocacy; donated to tax-exempt charitable organizations or to the state; or returned to donors.

Politicians are prohibited from using their campaign accounts for personal expenses, but Fox admitted in his 2015 plea deal that he used the fund to cover mortgage and car payments as well as his credit card bill.

Moser, who serves as the treasurer of Fox’s campaign account, said Fox has no plan to run for political office again. Fox reported $66,660 in the account as of Dec. 31. His only expenditures in recent years have been to Moser for overseeing the fund and CFO Compliance, which files his reports with the Board of Elections.

Moser said Fox’s restitution plan is overseen by the federal court’s probation office, which also keeps track of his income and ability to pay. The office collects from Fox and then pays it to his campaign account.

Fox completed the home confinement portion of his sentence last week and is now on probation for two years.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan