Sorry, Speaker Fox, You Cannot Plead Ignorance About the 38 Studios Loan Guarantee
“Did I know Curt Schilling was interested in coming to Rhode Island? Absolutely,” Fox said Friday during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “Did we mandate that he get $75 million? Never! Never, never, never. Did we vet any of his financials? I wouldn’t know if Curt Schilling would have qualified for a dime, for nothing, or for $125 million.”
As prescribed by the state’s Constitution, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House is an enormously powerful position legislatively. The result is that, with rare exception, a bill simply does not become law in Rhode Island without the Speaker’s consent.
Making law can, in some ways, be compared to diving into a pool or body of water. The big difference is that if the water diver misjudges, it is almost always he alone who suffers the consequences. When the RI Speaker dives into a legislative pool, however, he is often taking (sometimes dragging) one million people along with him.
Speaker Fox’s choice of verb – did not “mandate” that Schilling get $75 million – is interestingly inaccurate. No, the legislature did not mandate the $75 million loan guarantee to 38 Studios. But the legislature, with Gordon Fox at the helm, most certainly authorized it, facilitated it and turned a blank check over to the Executive Branch for taxpayer-backed loan guarantees up to $125 million.
As with almost every other bill that has become law in RI, the 38 studios loan guarantee would not have happened without the consent of the most powerful person, politically, in the state. To invoke and amplify a legal adage, ignorance of the law is not an excuse, not when you break a law and especially not when you make the laws. That Speaker Fox failed to properly apprise himself of the depth and the danger before diving into this particular legislative pool only amplifies his responsibility, it does not mitigate it.