Gordon Fox is guilty, and I’m not surprised. I’m the guy who ran against the former Rhode Island speaker of the House in 2012. From the first days of our campaign, I pointed to the corruption that seems endemic in Rhode Island’s political structure.
At the time, nobody seemed to believe me. They denied it was happening. They made excuses. They said that it was just the way things are.
Many politicians who are still in office turned out to support Fox. They campaigned for him. They walked with him. They stood in front of the polls on Election Day and told voters to vote for him. They felt at the time that the status quo was better than advocating change.
The media were also complicit. During the campaign, I was faulted again and again for not being a serious politician. I was belittled for keeping my campaign grassroots and not raising a war chest. They dismissed the pay-to-play connections we drew between campaign contributions from the auto body industry and votes cast.
Our very own RI Future said that Fox was “by no means a dark force or a dirty politician. … On the contrary, he’s a good man trying to succeed in an often cutthroat business.” RIPR’s Scott MacKay bluntly opined, “…anyone who believes that Binder can get nearly as much done for the capital city as Fox, arguably the state’s most powerful politician, must believe that elephants can fly.” The pigs started flying when Fox resigned in March of 2013.
And nothing much has changed. Campaigns are still decided, by and large, by who raises the most money. Campaign contributions buy political influence in Rhode Island. Licenses are granted, tax breaks are given and issues are decided when you give contributions to the right politicians.
During the 2012 campaign, Gordon Fox lied. He lied to the press. He lied to the voters. Now he’s admitted his guilt.
He’s confessed to stealing more than $100,000 from his campaign fund, filing fraudulent tax returns, and taking a bribe for a liquor license. If you or I were charged with these offences, we would be facing decades in federal prison. Instead, he’s copped a plea in exchange for three years — one year per charge. It doesn’t seem sufficient.
In Rhode Island, voters have a bad habit of keeping people around who don’t deserve it. We brush away fault and blame, and shrug because “It’s the ways the system works.”
The system still doesn’t work for citizens and taxpayers. Since being anointed as speaker, Nicholas Mattiello has collected more than $100,000 in campaign contributions, even though he ran unopposed in the last election. Do those dollars really buy nothing?
When will this change? How will this change?
The General Assembly could police itself. It could eject members who accept campaign contributions that influence their votes. It could end the practice of late night back room deals. It could enact ethics and campaign finance reform.
We could create a smaller full-time legislature that pays members a living wage so they don’t have to be wealthy or take bribes to survive.
Will they? Probably not.
The next election is in 20 months. We need citizens to start running today for these jobs on the promise of these changes. It’s time to stop voting for the devil we know and instead look for people who are honest and true.
During a televised debate, Gordon Fox accused me of telling tall tales. I didn’t. He was the liar.
Keep that in mind the next time you see an “amateur” taking on a pro.
- Mark Binder, Providence, March 2015
See Fox Lie…