Representative Peter Palumbo, is perhaps best-known for calling my niece, Jessica Ahlquist, an “Evil Little Thing” on the John DePetro Show and in the process creating an internet meme demonstrating the casual way in which politicians dehumanize atheists and women with their rhetoric. Or maybe he’s better known for the hateful anti-refuge letter he recently sent to Governor Chafee, or his anti-immigration appearance on Fox News.
But now he’s in the news because there’s an investigation involving beach concession stands he managed for now-former Democratic Party chairman David Caprio. Palumbo won the bid to manage the three concession stands, and then declined the contract. It was assumed, at a lower price by Caprio, who then hired Palumbo to manage the concession stands. The people lost out on $266,000 in revenue as a result. Caprio resigned Tuesday.
This, in the middle of an election season.
Rhode Island Republicans Mark Smiley, Chairman of the Rhode Island GOP and Executive Director Robert Paquin III have issued a press release calling “for State Representative Peter Palumbo to step down and aside from his race for re-election while he is investigated by the RI State Police.” If Palumbo steps down his Democratic primary opponent, Kirk McDonough will be running unopposed in the primary (Update: McDonough did not qualify for the primary ballot, so if Palumbo doesn’t run the seat would go to a Republican). The Republicans are fielding two candidates for Palumbo’s seat.
Should Peter Palumbo step down? If he and David Caprio colluded to profit $266,000 at the people’s expense, then yes he should. Certainly everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and no one is sure as of yet that this entire affair involves anything precisely illegal, but the stench of insider politics and profits at the expense of taxpayers hovers over this mess in a way familiar to those who follow Rhode island politics. At the very least it should move the citizenry to demand that the Ethics Commission be granted oversight of the General Assembly, and we should all be wondering why elected officials are free to bid on state contracts, an obvious preventable conflict of interest.
[Edit: Common Cause RI tweeted to me, "the Ethics Commission still has jurisdiction over GA for not legislative actions such as this."]
Scandal aside, Palumbo’s policy proscriptions are wrong for Rhode Island.
Politically, Palumbo is to the right of most Republicans in this state. His conservative voting record paints him as a true Rhode Island DINO, a Democrat in name only. Palumbo has a 100% rating from the NRA, voted for Voter ID, is rated at 22% on Civil Rights by the ACLU and somehow avoided voting for or against marriage equality when it passed last year.
How conservative is Palumbo? In 2010 Palumbo appeared on Fox News touting an immigration bill he introduced that mirrored a controversial immigration bill from Arizona. Palumbo ended his appearance saying, “Thank God for Fox News.”
That’s pretty conservative.