On Legal Corruption

The link is more associative than direct, but something in attempts to use recent research to paint as a myth the pervasive impression of rampant corruption in Rhode Island has seemed off to me. I’ve thought, for example, that there must be something in the fact that journalists put Rhode Island at the top of the national corruption list even though comparisons of convictions place us in the upper portion of the middle of the pack. Mark Patinkin implies that Rhode Island’s politicians are so good at corruption that their hands remain clean in the eyes of the law.
The drama of the Resource Recovery Corporation expands on that general principle, in my opinion:

A recent audit of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation cites “a clear pattern of gross mismanagement” and confirms that the agency has lost $13.7 million on the development of its industrial park.
The state agency, which oversees the state Central Landfill, has restated its financial records to show real estate losses on about 70 acres, including land purchased from the family of former Johnston Mayor William R. Macera. …
Straightening out the books, and accounting for overstated assets, has not answered all of the questions about Resource Recovery’s real estate practices.
“The real question is, Why did we do that?” OConnell said. “Why did we spend money that way?”
Another team of forensic auditors, commissioned by Governor Carcieri, is still examining the land transactions as well as allegations of theft by employees and other possible crimes, payments for services not rendered or of questionable value, potential state ethics violations and violations of procurement procedures.

There are, obviously, allegations of actual law breaking, here, but it’s also worth noting that corruption doesn’t necessarily cross the line into illegality. Especially in a state in which it’s apparently legal to bribe legislators for their votes.

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Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
12 years ago

Let’s not forget Rhode Island’s long time ties with the mafia – so much so that it’s part of the state culture.
On the one hand, you have the mobsters knowledge about how to avoid the feds and being prosecuted, and certainly that knowledge has been passed along – don’t put anything in writing, don’t talk on the phone, develop chains of superficially legitimate transactions to launder the money / launder bribes and influence peddling.
Providence is the HQ of the Laborers Union, which has long time mob ties … and which in turn has officials “serving” in the General Assembly. Think Paulie Moura and the shakedown with the Longshoreman’s union guy at Quonset, and Moura patting the guy down looking for a wire.
Also the mafia influence in this state has had a downward spiral in the ethical culture overall – to our politicians influence peddling and bribes seems relatively “ethical” as compared to threats of violence and mob hits and bodies literally buried around RI.
I hate to say it – and I’m not slamming Italo-Americans, for as a group they’re very unfairly tainted with the mafia brush (just like the average Rhode Islander is unfairly tainted with our reputation for political corruption) – but Rhode Island’s civic culture more closely resembles that of mob and graft-riddled Sicily than it does relatively orderly and honest Scandinavia.

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