Mattiello and Ruggerio Forced to Remove “Political” Photos from Website After GoLocal Report
Thursday, July 19, 2018
GoLocal reported in June that both Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello and Senate President Domenic Ruggerio appeared to be violating the state law prohibiting using state assets to promote their likenesses during the election cycle.
The two legislative leaders claimed that their attorney said the statute did not apply to them. At the time of the GoLocal inquiry other Rhode Island officials had already removed their images from their taxpayer-supported websites to meet the requirements of the statute.
Now, the Board of Elections has ruled that their use of the state website to post photos are a violation and must be removed.
“Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio wrote to the Board of Elections on June 11 requesting an interpretation of the law pertaining to political advertising as it relates to the General Assembly website. The board ruled that the statute applies to the legislative website, so the photos were immediately removed,” said Larry Berman, spokesperson for Speaker of the House.
Primary day is September 12 and election day is November 6.
Other State Leaders in Compliance
The statue covers everything from state ads, mailers, videos or websites — anything distributed to the public during the 120 days prior to “any primary or general election.” The clock started back in May.
Governor Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, and Treasurer Seth Magaziner are in compliance with the law.
When the matter was brought to the attention Lt. Governor Daniel McKee’s office, his spokesperson said, "Since the Lt. Governor’s Office does not have authority over any related budget and does not pay for the operation of the office website, we do not believe a violation has occurred.”
“However, we are in the process of removing any images and videos of the Lt. Governor from the website,” said Andrea Palagi, Communications Director for McKee.
Mattiello and Ruggerio don't deny that they have budget or control authority over the General Assembly's website which was previously littered with photos of the two leaders doing everything from reading to children to attending a bill signing ceremonies to ribbon cutting ceremonies.
While the General Officers are adhering, Mattiello and Ruggerio balked.
“Our legal counsel is of the opinion that this statute does not apply to official state public information websites and state government social media. The Board of Elections has been contacted, and the Assembly is requesting an advisory opinion from the board, which we anticipate will be considered at its June 28th meeting,” said Larry Berman, House spokesman, and Greg Pare, Senate spokesman in a joint statement to GoLocal -- prior to the ruling.
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