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Russell Moore: Fox’s Departure Shouldn’t Overshadow Achievements

Monday, March 24, 2014


Make no mistake about it: Friday was a bad day for Rhode Island.

When federal agents stormed the statehouse and raided the House Speaker Gordon Fox's office in what was apparently a search for evidence, we all ended up a little bit worse off--regardless of the political fallout or who gets to call the shots on an ongoing basis.

Let's face it: the turn of events that followed was nothing if not predictable. The whole House of Representatives kicked into succession mode--some overtly, others covertly. They had to. Legislation and state business as a whole must continue. Keep in mind: the House is smack in the middle of their mid-season business. This isn't January where there isn't much going on yet.

No one can blame the ambitious folks who moved quickly to consolidate support in an effort to become the next statehouse top dog. If they didn't get their ducks in a row quickly, their opponents certainly would have. It's called game theory.

With respect to Fox, call me crazy, but it really does rub me the wrong way that the FBI can merely begin gathering information on a public official and that forces him to resign from office. I totally understand why he needed to resign, as FBI agents raiding your office does cloud your ability to lead, but the federal government with that kind of power does have a chilling affect.

Let's keep in mind, Fox hasn't even been charged with a crime, let alone been proven guilty of anything. Last I heard, The American Way is presume a citizen innocent until proven guilty. Fox should be given the same exact benefit of the doubt and presumption of innocence that every single other citizen of the country is entitled.

Regardless of what happens going forward, what's sad about the latest turn of events is that it will, in all likelihood, overshadow what really should have been considered a successful political legacy by observers.

Fox certainly wasn't a perfect Speaker of the House, but I'd argue that he was good. Under Fox's leadership, the legislature passed a fair and equitable school funding formula. The legislature passed pension reform, shaving $4 billion off of the pension fund's unfunded liability and in the process making the system more affordable for taxpayers and more secure for current and future retirees. And the state joined the rest of New England in making gay marriage a reality in Rhode Island--an issue that is the civil rights issue of our era. (Let's also not forget that he killed Governor Lincoln Chafee's regressive and economy killing sales tax hikes.)

Every single one of those issues was thought to be a political non-starter at one time or another. But Fox knew how to build consenus for the issues he cared about. It got things done.

The best way to know that Gordon Fox was a political moderate was the fact that he was always subject to criticism from both sides of the aisle. The conservatives would have you believe he was Bernie Sanders. The liberals (progressives) would portray him as if he were somehow our own Barry Goldwater. When you're getting criticized by purists from both ideologies, you're probably doing something right.

As someone who has observed the political process in Rhode Island for about a decade now, I can say for certain that it's pretty easy to stand on either side of the political spectrum, whether it be a conservative or a liberal (progressive), and refuse to compromise or listen to your adversaries. You'll never actually accomplish anything, but at least you'll still have your purity. That and $2 dollars will get you a large Del's lemonade.

It's not as glamorous to be a consensus builder like Fox. And those who do tend to tick off their colleagues on both sides of the political aisle. But here's the thing: they actually get things accomplished.

Gordon Fox sure did.

A native Rhode Islander, Russell J. Moore is a graduate of Providence College and St. Raphael Academy. He worked as a news reporter for 7 years (2004-2010), 5 of which with The Warwick Beacon, focusing on government. He continues to keep a close eye on the inner workings of Rhode Islands state and local governments.


Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

Prev Next

Buddy Cianci

Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci resigned as Providence Mayor in 1984 after pleading nolo contendere to charges of assaulting a Bristol man with a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log. Cianci believed the man to be involved in an affair with his wife. 

Cianci did not serve time in prison, but received a 5-year suspended sentence. He was replaced by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. in a special election. 

Prev Next

Joseph Bevilacqua

Joseph Bevilacqua was RI Speaker of the House from 1969 to 1975, and was appointed as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1976.  It was alleged that Bevilacqua had connections to organized crime throughout his political career.  

According to a 1989 article that appeared in The New York Times at the time of his death:

The series of events that finally brought Mr. Bevilacqua down began at the end of 1984... stating that reporters and state police officers had observed Mr. Bevilacqua repeatedly visiting the homes of underworld figures.

The state police alleged that Mr. Bevilacqua had also visited a Smithfield motel, owned by men linked to gambling and drugs...

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Thomas Fay

Thomas Fay, the successor to Bevilacqua as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in 1993, and was later found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of directing arbitration work to a partner in his real estate firm, Lincoln Center Properties.  

Fay was also alleged to use court employees, offices, and other resources for the purposes of the real estate firm.  Fay, along with court administrator and former Speaker of the House, Matthew "Mattie" Smith were alleged to have used court secretaries to conduct business for Lincoln, for which Fay and Smith were business partners. 

Fay was fined $3,000 and placed on one year probation. He could have been sentenced for up to three years in prison. 

Prev Next

Brian J. Sarault

Former Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault was sentenced in 1992 to more than 5 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering.  

Sarault was arrested by state police and FBI agents at Pawtucket City Hall in 1991, who alleged that the mayor had attempted to extort $3,000 from former RI State Rep. Robert Weygand as a kickback from awarding city contracts.

Weygand, after alerting federal authorities to the extortion attempt, wore a concealed recording device to a meeting where he delivered $1,750 to Sarault.

Prev Next

Edward DiPrete

Edward DiPrete became the first Rhode Island Governor to be serve time in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to multiple charges of corruption.

He admitted to accepting bribes and extorting money from contractors, and accepted a plea bargain which included a one-year prison sentence.

DiPrete served as Governor from 1985-1991, losing his 1990 re-election campaign to Bruce Sundlun.

Prev Next

Plunder Dome

Cianci was forced to resign from the Mayor’s office a second time in 2002 after being convicted on one several charges levied against him in the scandal popularly known as “Operation Plunder Dome.” 

The one guilty charge—racketeering conspiracy--led to a five-year sentence in federal prison. Cianci was acquitted on all other charges, which included bribery, extortion, and mail fraud.

While it was alleged that City Hall had been soliciting bribes since Cianci’s 1991 return to office, much of the case revolved around a video showing a Cianci aide, Frank Corrente, accepting a $1,000 bribe from businessman Antonio Freitas. Freitas had also recorded more than 100 conversations with city officials.

Operation Plunder Dome began in 1998, and became public when the FBI executed a search warrant of City Hall in April 1999. 

Cianci Aide Frank Corrente, Tax Board Chairman Joseph Pannone, Tax Board Vice Chairman David C. Ead, Deputy tax assessor Rosemary Glancy were among the nine individuals convicted in the scandal. 

Prev Next

N. Providence Councilmen

Three North Providence City Councilmen were convicted in 2011 on charges relating to a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes. In all, the councilmen sought more than $100,000 in bribes.

Councilmen Raimond A. Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond L. Douglas III were sentenced to prison terms of 71 months, 64 months, and 78 months, respectively. 

Prev Next

Charles Moreau

Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned in 2012 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. 

Moreau admitted that he had give contractor Michael Bouthillette a no-bid contract to board up vacant homes in exchange for having a boiler installed in his home. 

He was freed from prison in February 2014, less than one year into a 24 month prison term, after his original sentence was vacated in exchange for a guilty plea on a bribery charge.  He was credited with tim served, placed on three years probation, and given 300 hours of community service.

Prev Next

Gordon Fox

The Rhode Island State Police and FBI raided and sealed off the State House office of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox on March 21--marking the first time an office in the building has ever been raided. 

The details are still emerging, but the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Rhode Island has confirmed the IRS is involved in an ongoing investigation in Rhode Island.


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Fox ruled with an iron fist - his way or the highway, with the stroke of a pen. He quelled dissention the same way any dictator would.

As for the presumption of innocence, no one forced Fox to resign - it was his and only his choice. But that's what guilty people do, they step away to plan their exit. Innocent people stay put and fight. There is no doubt that if the IRS, the FBI and the State Police show up on your doorstep, led by the U.S. Attorney's office, you did something to bring them there.

The fantastic news is that Fox, like all dictators caught in a pinch, will roll to save the only rear-end that matters to him - his. We can expect more clarity on: Providence Economic Development and some of those mortgages (I bet Cicilline is not sleeping too well these days); the Historic Tax Credits and Mr. Corso; and I would be surprised if the inner workings of the 38 Studios deal don't surface when the feds are done talking to Fox. Either way, his friends will be summoned after he flips.

Lastly, in light of the praise you offer this dictator, I fully expect you to author Putin's Man of the Year Profile in the coming issue of the Red Times.

Comment #1 by David Allen on 2014 03 24

Huh? A corrupt politician who cared about his issues and little else got caught and we are supposed to cry? Idiot.

Comment #2 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 03 24

Russ, you are crazy lol !

He is corrupt!

Comment #3 by anthony sionni on 2014 03 24

The author must have a sore back from carrying so much water.

Comment #4 by David Beagle on 2014 03 24

Typical golocalprov ultra lib , he and carol ann costa must be trying to figure out how this turn of events can be blamed on the lack of state workers! Maybe Mr. Fox resigned because as Mr allen pointed out above, HE DID SOME VERY WRONG THINGS! Really how inept a spin is mr moore striving for? Innocent people don't roll over, and you don't get the feds/IRS and State police knocking at your door over a parking ticket. Embarrassed that GoLocal puts this ridiculous stuff out there. They need to change the name of this little online site to GoDemProv.

Comment #5 by sasc voter on 2014 03 24

I'm glad Fox is gone. The writer is correct about one thing. If the government decides your its enemy it has enormous power to ruin your life. And sometimes being guilty has nothing to do with it. I don't think that's it in this case. Charges will be brought against Fox and he will rat everybody out that he can. Lets hope he takes the whole democratic party down.

Comment #6 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 24

And that ladies and gentlemen is what is wrong with RI. 2 federal warrants delivered by the FBI, IRS, and state police to an elected official who is supposed to represent the best interests of the people and we have Russell on a soap box saying "oh he's really a nice guy". Give me a break. Grow up.

Comment #7 by Joe Mac on 2014 03 24

FRIDAY was a GREAT day for RI idiot.

Comment #8 by Jackson Teller on 2014 03 24

Fox was part of the con game that had RI lend 38 Studio's $75 million.

Fox was a part of the ripoff that is DeepWater where when the PUC correctly protected ratepayers by rejecting the deal then the legislature passed a special law forcing the PUC to accept the $500 million dollars in extra costs over the 20 year time period.

I only wish the FBI would head into the GA and arrest every last one of them.

Comment #9 by Jim D on 2014 03 25

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