THE DO NOTHING, MAKE EXCUSES ETHICS COMMISSION
The R.I. Republican Party issues the following statement as to the dismal of the complaint filed against Governor Gina Raimondo:
“We are disappointed by the decision of the Ethics Commission. Governor Gina Raimondo and lobbyist Donald Sweitzer worked together as Chairperson and Treasurer to affect and achieve the financial objectives of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA). Sweitzer was called the Treasurer of the DGA in various IRS forms and was referred to as a manager at the DGA. The Ethics Commission ignored this and apparently bought Raimondo’s argument that Sweitzer was not the Treasurer at the DGA because someone else, acting on Sweitzer’s behalf, handled the DGA’s bank accounts. In 2019, the DGA raised over $43.5 million. Does the Ethics Commission really believe that Sweitzer did not play an important leadership role in affecting and achieving the DGA’s financial goals in 2019? The Ethics Commission’s decision just makes it easier for politicians and their lobbyist friends to circumvent the Ethics Code.
In the end, we must admit we are not surprised by the Ethics Commission’s decision. A near majority of the Ethics Commission members are gubernatorial appointees. Also, in recent years, the Ethics Commission has interpreted the conflict of interest provisions of the Ethics Code in a way that benefits State House politicians. The Ethics Commission focuses much of its time on making sure annual disclosure forms are filed and filled out correctly. When the Ethics Commission does fine an official for a conflict of interest, it is usually a local official, who doesn’t have any appointees on the Ethics Commission. For example, a few years ago, the Ethics Commission fined the Block Island Town Warden for failing to recuse herself from a contract negotiation with a non-profit organization because the Town Warden’s campaign treasurer was on the board of directors of the non-profit. The Ethics Commission thinks what the Block Island Town Warden did was unethical, but it is believes it is appropriate for a Governor to negotiate a billion dollar no-bid deal with a state vendor for which her DGA Treasurer is a lobbyist. This shows that when it comes to State House politicians, the Ethics Commission policy is to do nothing except make excuses.”