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Fox Scandal: Winners and Losers

Monday, March 24, 2014

 

The resignation of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox has created a power vacuum and redefined the political landscape in Rhode Island.

The events trigger one of the most dramatic power shifts in Rhode Island's history. The explanation of why Fox resigned has yet to be fully disclosed, but the implications are already profound.

For Rhode Island, a state plagued by 9% unemployment and no clear strategy for job creation, the resignation will cause a stagnation legislatively. Few pieces of bold legislation will be adopted.

Fox was tied to two of the most controversial financial/political issues: both the probe of Providence Economic Development Partnership and the 38 Studios collapse.

A year ago, the power structure in Rhode Island was dominated by Fox. He was the single most powerful political force followed by Governor Lincoln Chafee who was gearing up for re-election. 

The Fox resignation triggers a number of events - see who the winners and losers are below.

 

Related Slideshow: Fox Scandal: Winners and Losers

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Winner

Peter F, Neronha, U.S. Attorney

The bold action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation coupled with Internal Revenue Service investigators raiding the Speaker of the House's office was a major statement by federal authorities.

The investigation tied to now-former Speaker Fox sets expectations of a far broader probe.

Neronha has also indicted developer Richard Baccari and was key to the http://www.golocalprov.com/news/9949/">Google Settlement that brought $230 million to Rhode Island. 

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Winner

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed

 

Generally, the Senate President plays second fiddle to the Speaker of the House, but with a new Speaker to be voted on as early as Tuesday, Paiva Weed's influence will shoot up in the transition.

 

She will be more influential in the budget process.

 

Look for Paiva Weed to make a move on controlling the Joint Committee on Legislative Services - the proverbial legislative grab bag for jobs and grants.

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Winner

Majority Leader Nick Mattiello

 

As GoLocal Tweeted on Friday, the Cranston Representative and Majority Leader has the edge to take control of the House.

 

Mattiello (as of Sunday Night) has approximately 40 votes and the momentum necessary to replace Fox.

 

Mattiello has strong support from former Speaker and lobbyist Bill Murphy. A Mattiello Speakership may cause a big shake up in Committee Chairs and senior staffing.

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Winner

Former Speaker Bill Murphy

 

Murphy and Fox worked together for more than a decade and their relationship had both ups and downs. Nick Mattiello, if elected Speaker, is a close ally to former Speaker Bill Murphy.

 

Murphy had served as Speaker from 2003 to 2010. The former legislator has a successful criminal defense practice and is a lobbyist for notable clients (2013) for UTGR (Twin River), Advance America Cash Advance, and the Brotherhood of Correction Officers.

 

Murphy will emerge as an ever greater influencer with Mattiello as Speaker.

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Loser

Gina Raimondo

 

The resignation by Gordon Fox is a political hit to the General Treasurer who went big for Fox in his surprisingly tough re-election against story teller Mark Binder.

 

Binder hit Fox both for his role in 38 Studios and his legal work for PEDP applicants.

 

Raimondo decided to publicly support Fox and walk his district with the embattled Speaker.

 

It should be noted that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also supported Fox, but Raimondo claims to be the reformer in this race.

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Loser

Fox's Committee Chairs (if Mattiello wins)

 

Fox loyalists who have pledged their support to Michael Marcello will be in trouble as will their agendas if Mattiello is in fact elected Speaker on Tuesday. 

 

Committee Chairs like Helio Mello, Edith Ajello, and Arthur "Doc" Corvese might all be replaced as they backed Marcello. 

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Loser

Providence's Budget

 

For the past decade, Providence could always count of Gordon Fox to help bail the Providence Budget out of trouble.

 

From Finance Committee Chair, then-Majority Leader and ultimately-Speaker, Providence Mayors knew that Fox -- the Mount Hope section of Providence Representative -- would increase aid to Providence in one way or another. 

 

Providence always found an extra few millions from Fox. That access is likely to end in 2014 further impacting the City of Providence's budget issues.

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Loser

Legalization of Marijuana

 

The pieces were falling together for the effort to pass legislation to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island. Speaker Fox was a social progressive. Judiciary Committee Chair Edith Ajello, who may lose her post in the power shift, was the legislation's sponsor and in command of the key committee.

 

In addition, Governor Lincoln Chafee has voiced support for the idea.

 

But, a shift to a more conservative Mattiello would throw a barrier in the way to a 2014 passage.

 
 

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