Beneath the Bright White Veil, the RI Way
And this is the sound of General Treasurer Frank Caprio breaking the glass rod that made him appear to be arm’s length from the Rhode Island way of politics:
He acknowledged the perception of a conflict with donations from eight out-of-state firms that specialize in class-action securities lawsuits.
The national litigation firm Grant & Eisenhofer is one example.
In June, the firm became the lead counsel in a class-action securities suit brought by Rhode Island against Security Capital Assurance Ltd., which allegedly reported inflated income that ultimately cost investors across the country millions.
The case, according to terms released by the treasurer’s office, could produce legal fees as high as $50 million if the suit is successful. Three months before being named lead counsel, four Grant & Eisenhofer employees, who list Delaware and New York addresses, made combined donations of $4,000 to Caprio’s campaign.
The treasurer returned those contributions Tuesday, in addition to donations from more than 50 individuals employed by securities-monitoring firms dating more than two years in some cases, according to a spreadsheet and copies of checks provided by the treasurer’s staff. The decision came several days into a Journal inquiry of Caprio’s political fundraising and hiring decisions.
Mr. Caprio is, however, keeping similarly situated donations from Rhode Islanders. Blame the size of the state, argue that elected officials shouldn’t be afraid to consider personal comfort with contractors when seeking to expend public dollars, and I’ll likely agree with you. But there’s something disconcerting about this dynamic:
“We’re talking about these local firms, individuals that have known me, have supported me for many years, in some instances, and people that I know well and I’m proud to have their support,” said Caprio.
Frankly, I’m not sure what the remedy should be, but it’s difficult to have faith in a government when it is characteristic for old pals to donate to their friends’ campaigns and then reap professional rewards when they win.