Chafee and Raimondo: Half of Appointees Are Lobbyists

Saturday, December 11, 2010


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Roughly half of the total number of appointments the Governor-elect and General Treasurer-elect have made to their administrations so far are current or former registered lobbyists, according to a GoLocalProv review of state records.

So far, three of the seven appointments Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee has announced are current or former lobbyists: former Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty, former Lt. Governor Richard Licht, and Janet Coit, the executive director of the state chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Fogarty and Licht top lobbyists

Fogarty has worked as a lobbyist for the Mayforth Group, representing a dozen clients, including Sodexo, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17, and CompuClaim. His clients paid him between $15,000 and $90,000 in 2010, according to the Secretary of State's lobbyist database.

Licht, a lobbyist with Adler Pollock & Sheehan, had eight clients in 2010—including the Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, the Rhode Island Builders Association, and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. He earned between $1,500 and $5,000 a month per client.

Coit was registered as a lobbyist in 2005, 2006, and 2007 for her employer, the Nature Conservancy. A potential eighth appointment—House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino for Secretary of the Office of Health and Human Services—is also a former lobbyist. But his formal appointment awaits an Ethics Commission opinion on whether he can make the immediate jump from the legislative to the executive branch.

General Treasurer-elect Gina Raimondo announced her first two appointments this week—and both of them are lobbyists too. Her new Chief of Staff, Joseph Pratt, is a registered lobbyist for Fidelity Investments. Her second pick is incoming Deputy Treasurer Mark Dingley, who currently works in the Treasurer’s office. Technically, he is listed as a lobbyist as well.

Lobbying a ‘way station’ for those out of office

John Marion, executive director for Common Cause Rhode Island, told GoLocalProv he is seeing more lobbyists appointed to government positions this year than he recalls in previous transitions. “It seems a little higher this time but remember that Don Carcieri came from the business world so his connections were with the business world,” Marion said. “You draw on the people who surround you and Lincoln Chafee was surrounded by people who had been in and out of public service like he has.”

The two most conspicuous examples are the two former lieutenant governors Chafee has appointed—Richard Licht and Charlie Fogarty. Both men also served in the state Senate and ran for higher office. Licht ran twice unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and Fogarty most recently mounted a failed bid for governor in 2006.

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“Lobbying has become sort of a way station for a lot of people who go back and forth between public life and private life as a way to influence public policy while out of public office,” Marion said. “We’re seeing a lot of people going through the revolving door.”

State law imposes a one-year ban on public officials leaving office and lobbying their successor or the branch of government in which they served, according to Marion. However, there is no such restriction in the reverse scenario: lobbyists taking positions in government.

Marion does not support a ban on lobbyists serving in office. “It doesn’t make sense because you’re not likely to know whether you’re going to enter government service,” Marion said. “Richard Licht wasn’t planning on working for the Chafee administration.”

Chafee spokesman: experience in government key

Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor said all appointments went through a vetting process that included a “careful review” of any director-designee’s business background.

Asked about potential conflicts of interest appointees with lobbying backgrounds might face with their former clients, Trainor said Fogarty and Licht have begun notifying their clients they will no longer be representing them. He said they will resign from their lobbying positions before Chafee comes into office. “If they’ve resigned, then that should be adequate,” Trainor told GoLocalProv. But he added: “If there is a gray area we’d certainly want our directors to seek an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission.”

The appointed department directors will also have to file financial disclosure forms with the state Ethics Commission.

Trainor said the key criterion for appointments was experience in government. “What we’re looking for is experience in working for or with state government—understanding how it works, both the bureaucratic process and the political process,” Trainor said. “We need that to move our agenda forward.”

Joe Shekarchi, the transition chairman for Raimondo, said he didn’t see lobbying as an advantage or disadvantage for appointees. “Each candidate is evaluated on their education, qualifications, and experience,” Shekarchi told GoLocalProv.


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