Your Local “Good Guy” Dem Legislator Enables the Problem Pols
It’s no big surprise that the R.I. Senate Democrats–33 out of the 38 State Senators–unaminously re-elected Joseph Montalbano (D-N. Providence) to be Senate President and M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) as Senate Majority Leader. This despite the fact that Montalbano may currently be the target of an FBI invesigation. (Something, by the way, that both Bill Rappleye of NBC10 and the ProJo’s Katherine Gregg brought up at the Dems celebration). From Gregg’s story:
In June, the citizens group Operation Clean Government filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about Montalbano’s failure to mention on his annual financial disclosure statement the income his law firm had been getting since at least 2003 from the Town of West Warwick. Last month, the commission itself lodged a complaint against Montalbano for failing to disclose additional income derived in 2002.
Both stemmed from the disclosure by The Providence Journal on the day the Senate was poised to vote on placing the doomed West Warwick casino proposal on the ballot that Montalbano’s North Providence law firm had been paid $86,329 including expenses by the town since 2003 for legal work that included clearing the titles on two parcels of land near the proposed Harrah’s-Narragansett Indian casino.
By late last month, the FBI was involved.
The FBI subpoenaed records regarding his title work in West Warwick, a town councilwoman confirmed that she had been questioned by the FBI about how Montalbano came to be hired by the town, and Montalbano acknowledged the FBI “questioned several senators, members of my staff and they questioned me.”
Montalbano said he welcomed the investigation because he had nothing to hide and had been assured he was “not a target.”
Asked yesterday if he had taken any steps in advance of last night’s Senate Democratic caucus to assuage any concerns his colleagues might have about his predicament, Montalbano said he saw no need: “To a person in the Senate, no one has questioned my determination that I will protect my integrity to the bitter end.”
To be fair, there are no charges against Montalbano. But note the careful wording of his last statement: “no one has questioned my determination that I will protect my integrity…” I’m sure he’s determined to protect his integrity, but not questioning his determination to protect his integrity isn’t the same as not questioning his actual integrity. (Sure, I may be parsing a bit too closely, but Sen. Montalbano is a lawyer and has experience in the art of wordsmithing).
Yet, then again, even if they had such questions, it wouldn’t matter anyway. Montalbano’s re-election reveals questionable judgement on the part of the Democrat caucus who have decided that someone who is currently under a cloud of ethics charges is worthy of leading them. So much for the negative repercussions of the appearance of impropriety. Why didn’t they elevate Sen. Paiva-Weed instead? She’s proven to be an effective leader and there are no clouds threatening rain upon her parade. Instead, I’m left to believe that fear of political repercussions–or maybe just habit–has put Montalbano back on top.
Remember how the Democrats told us that a vote for Chafee would be a vote for Bush, because Chafee–though he may disagree with the President on almost everything–would ultimately help keep the President’s “corrupt” party in power? The same applies on the state level here in Rhode Island, folks. Your local legislator may be a good person–just like Senator Chafee–but the votes and support of these average, “good guy” Democrats serve to prop up the same political problem children with whom everyday Rhode Islanders are supposedly so disgusted.