2016-08-04 / Opinion


Preventing Another 38 Studios

To the Editor:

Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Steven O'Donnell, along with Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, announced last Friday, July 29, that there will be no indictments in the 38 Studios criminal investigation.

They have concluded that no laws were broken, but we can certainly agree that there was a fair amount of bad and unethical behavior ­– and in most cases that is not against the law.

State Police investigators found that Rhode Island officials were less than transparent during the legislative process to set aside funds for the deal and failed to do enough due diligence into the project.

I am not an attorney. However, I do sit on the Rhode Island House Committee on Oversight and in the past 18 months have learned some things about the 38 Studios affair. I have spent much time thinking about it and have come to a few elementary conclusions. I reviewed hundreds of pages of emails, heard hours of testimony, and worked to determine the extent of the wrongdoings and the people to bring to justice.

It was a perfect storm, as these things are called. There was a shrewd, ambitious and engaged group of people that came together at a unique time and saw opportunities to either make a quick buck or to boost Rhode Island out of the 2008 recession, depending on their values, their jobs and their interests. The rest, as we say, is history.

Over the past two years, the Rhode Island Assembly has taken steps to pass legislation that can reduce the future likelihood of another 38 Studios fiasco in Rhode Island.

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Gorbea, we have signed into law an overhaul of the state's lobbying law which simplifies and clarifies the rules governing lobbying, and maximizes transparency.

The new law creates a more robust reporting system, as well as strengthens the investigation and enforcement powers of the Rhode Island Secretary of State. The legislation accomplishes three objectives: provides much clearer definitions and bright line distinctions, so those involved can more easily determine who does and does not have to register to lobby; provides a clear process to investigate possible violations of the lobbying law; and strengthens penalties for violations. This was signed into law by Gov. Raimondo last month. This will clearly serve to avoid future collusion between lobbyists and legislators.

Furthermore, Rhode Island voters will have the opportunity this November to restructure the Rhode Island ethics law, as passed in a resolution by the Assembly. The constitutional question before voters, if passed, will restore the full jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission over legislators. I will vote yes on that ballot question.

This is not enough. We must continue on a path to providing increased transparency and accountability for both elected and administrative officials at all levels of government. I encourage all voters to take this next step with me to transparency and make their voices heard this fall in the ballot box, voting yes on Question 2.

Rep. Lauren Carson
House District 75, Newport

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