Allegations of “Pay to Play”

It’s very interesting to see what happens when very powerful politicians finally face a challenger who is willing to call them out for various things. House Speaker Gordon Fox has an opponent, Mark Binder, who is calling him out on a few different things.
First was the allegation that the General Assembly’s Public Communications Director was being asked to answer questions about Fox’s campaign, which is a no-no.
Additionally, Fox has been forced to answer questions about the 38 Studios mess, including his “everybody knew” comment. Incidentally, his comment seems to have thrown other legislators under the bus who have denied any knowledge of the direct negotiations or terms with 38 Studios prior to their vote.
Binder still has yet another tack, he’s alleging “pay to play” during Fox’s time as Speaker. First, that’s not an allegation that I’m going to make at Fox as when you say things like that, you need to have solid evidence to back up your claims. I don’t have anything like that. What it seems that Binder is using is circumstantial evidence. In his Newsmakers debate with Fox, Binder claims to have seen evidence in Fox’s campaign finance reports and how he votes. Binder said that Fox has taken campaign donations from sources before, during and after voting on legislation that was beneficial to the donors. However, there is no direct “smoking gun” here. So maybe we should give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt? After all, he claims that he would never do such a thing.
Well, except for that fine he accepted back in 2004. Eight years ago, Fox agreed to the largest fine ever issued by the state’s Ethics Commission and paid $10,000.

The Rhode Island state Ethics Commission was to vote Tuesday on a proposed settlement that would have House Majority Leader Gordon Fox pay a $10,000 fine for voting on a $770 million, no-bid deal for the lottery company GTECH in which his law firm was involved.

I guess that might qualify as “pay to play.”

Fox denies in the proposed deal that he did any work for GTECH in the week before he voted on the legislation. However, billings his law firm sent to GTECH indicated that he did.

We’re seeing another pattern with Speaker Fox. He seems to do one thing and then when it doesn’t go right he simply apologizes. First there was the reduced funding for RI’s higher education where he offered a “shame on us”, seems to be doing something similar with 38 Studios and then did the same with this fine situation.

“I did not know of the law firm’s business relationship with GTECH but I should have known. This is a mistake for which I accept full responsibility,” Fox said in a statement released on Monday.

Apologies are great but we are seeing a pattern. Speaker Fox has at least one if not two big elections coming up. First will be his challenge from Binder but even if he’s successful, he could have a challenge for his Speaker position. I guess we’ll see with those two votes whether people want to continue down the path we’ve been following.

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