And after the jump, a breakdown of how each agency is spending its portion of the money:
And after the jump, a breakdown of how each agency is spending its portion of the money:
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The latest quarterly finance reports from Rhode Island’s state and local politicians were due to the R.I. Board of Elections by midnight last night, and the results offer a glimpse at who’s got an early advantage heading into next year’s campaign.
• Related: DreamWorks CEO, Facebook executive among Raimondo donors (July 31)
Rhode Island’s senior U.S. senator, Jack Reed, is the one who usually gets mentioned as a future presidential cabinet member. But his junior colleague Sheldon Whitehouse is now getting some attention, too.
Whitehouse, who won a resounding re-election victory Tuesday, is the first name on The Wall Street Journal’s list of potential successors to Attorney General Eric Holder now that President Obama has won a second term, based on “names people involved with both campaigns have been kicking around.”
However, the WSJ’s Joe Palazzolo also warned there may be no need for a new AG anytime soon: “Folks we spoke with cautioned against assuming that Mr. Holder is ready to step aside. While he isn’t expected to have a Janet Reno-like run, he may be keen for a bit more time to leave his mark.”
There’s no reason to think Whitehouse wants the job, either, considering how much he seems to enjoy being a senator. Perhaps a different high-profile job is in Whitehouse’s future, though: chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
• Related: Whitehouse dismisses more talk of getting Supreme Court seat (April 9)
As you’ve probably heard by now, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and his colleagues from across the country have reached a $25 billion settlement with the big banks for foreclosure abuses. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog has a solid FAQ explaining the deal. Felix Salmon likes it and Tom Sgouros doesn’t.
$25 billion is a lot of money, but how much of that will wind up in Rhode Island? Here’s a chart offering the official answer ($172 million), sent along by AG Kilmartin’s press secretary Amy Kempe:
For more information, visit riag.ri.gov/mortgagesettlement, the website Kilmartin’s office set up to help people understand the settlement and make use of it (if they’re eligible).
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin was our guest Thursday to tape this weekend’s edition of WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers.” You can watch the episode here.
During the show, Kilmartin said nobody has been deported since the federal immigration program Secure Communities started up in Rhode Island in March.
But it turns out that’s not the case, Tim White reports in a new WPRI.com story that will surely provide more grist for the debate over the policy:
Fourteen people have been deported to their home countries since Rhode Island implemented the controversial federal immigration program Secure Communities in March.
According to figures provided by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, 9,467 fingerprints have been submitted to federal officials since March 22 through Secure Communities. Of those, 100 people have been handed over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement custody.
Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said 42 of the 100 were “level one offenders.”
“Those are individuals who have committed the most heinous crimes,” Kempe said.
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin thinks the world of former State Police Col. Brendan Doherty. But when it comes to next year’s 1st Congressional District race, he’s standing by fellow Democrat David Cicilline.
“David Cicilline, as far as I know, will be the Democratic nominee, and if he’s the Democratic nominee, that’s who I’ll be supporting,” Kilmartin said Thursday during a taping of WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers.”
Kilmartin hasn’t always made Cicilline’s life easier – in last year’s attorney general race, he hammered opponent Joe Fernandez for failing to prosecute Cicilline’s brother over a bad check when Fernandez was city solicitor. (That allegation earned Kilmartin a “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact.)
“Brendan is a dear friend of mine, and I admire him greatly, and that’s not to diminish any of his qualities,” Kilmartin said. “I think he’s a great candidate – I frankly wish he were a Democrat. But the reality is, I am a Democrat and I will stick by the party.”
Kilmartin touched on a range of topics during the interview, including Central Falls, pension fraud, public corruption, his lack of success with the General Assembly, the death penalty, immigration and his relationship with Governor Chafee. He also acknowledged his office is sometimes hampered by limited resources.
“It’s a question of, if I take something from here I have to borrow it from there,” Kilmartin said. “There are a lot of stresses in that office, frankly, personnel-wise. I could easily justify 50 more prosecutors. But I know the reality of the state’s problems … and I’ll deal with those issues.”
The full episode of “Newsmakers” will be posted online Friday and air at 10 a.m. Sunday on Fox Providence.
If you missed it in Sunday’s Projo, be sure to read reporter Tracy Breton’s long look at how the state’s Access to Public Records Act blocks Rhode Islanders from learning about the people who become judges here – more evidence of why APRA reform is badly needed here:
In Rhode Island, the public also has no right to know whether someone being considered or selected for a judgeship has ever been accused or convicted of a crime, how much debt they have, whether they are current on paying their taxes, have ever filed for bankruptcy, or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
All of these things are the subject of inquiry by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, the “independent, nonpartisan” state body that screens candidates for the judiciary. But the answers, which are in a personal data questionnaire that is part of the judicial application process, are kept confidential and off-limits to public scrutiny.
The JNC adopted rules years ago making judicial applications secret, and the attorney general’s office, in the first interpretation of the commission’s policy, says that is OK.
Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin was a guest at this morning’s taping of WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers” with Tim White, WRNI’s Ian Donnis and yours truly. I brought up Kilmartin’s proposal during the campaign for Rhode Island to hold a constitutional convention in 2012, and asked why he thought that would be a good idea.
“I believe government and the constitution is a living, breathing document,” Kilmartin replied. “And to grow as a living document – just like all of us as living beings, we need to grow, we need to change, we need to adapt. And there is nothing wrong with having a convention to look at the constitution of the State of Rhode Island.”
Pressed on a specific constitutional change he would want examined by the convention, Kilmartin – who has been a state representative since 1991 – mentioned turning the General Assembly into a full-time legislative body.
“Now I know the general public would probably vote that down [but] I really think it needs a good vetting,” he said. “I know the hours [lawmakers work] – they always say it’s a part-time legislature, but I know the hours I put in, and believe me, they weren’t part-time. Those folks work very hard.”
Rhode Island’s last constitutional convention took place in 1986, when one of its marquee changes was the establishment of the now-neutered Ethics Commission.
The state constitution requires that every 10 years voters get asked whether they want to hold a constitutional convention, although the General Assembly can try to call one without waiting a decade. The last time voters got asked was in 2004, when they rejected it 48%-52%. So that means the question has to be put on the ballot again by 2014.
Tim led off the show by asking Kilmartin about illegal immigration – specifically, his take on Gov. Don Carcieri’s 2008 executive order and his support for the federal Secure Communities program. I wrote up his comments for a new WPRI.com story – here’s an excerpt:
Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin said Friday he opposes Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee’s plan to rescind outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri’s controversial March 2008 executive order on illegal immigration.
“I think it should be maintained – there’s no harm in it,” he said during a taping of WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers.” “It makes a statement that law enforcement is to participate and work with other agencies.” …
Kilmartin also said his decision to join a controversial federal program that checks the immigration status of people who get arrested “is not much different than what occurs now.”
Kilmartin also played to the crowd by telling the three of us he supports a state shield law for reporters. Ian Donnis has more about that on WRNI’s website.
The entire half-hour episode of “Newsmakers” with Kilmartin – plus Gary Sasse and Common Cause’s John Marion talking about their Citizens for an Accountable Legislature project – will be posted online later today and will air on TV at 5:30 a.m. Sunday on both WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. (Yep, football is still taking our regular time slot – set your DVRs.)
A special edition of “Newsmakers” this week features a 60-minute, commercial-free debate between the Democrats running for attorney general in the Sept. 14 primary – Smithfield Town Councilman Steve Archambault, former Providence city solicitor Joe Fernandez and state Rep. Peter Kilmartin of Pawtucket.
Here’s panelist Ian Donnis’ preview of the debate, which comes less than two weeks before the primary election:
I won’t try to encapsulate the discussion here, but the topics include: the candidates’ commercials and their records; their ideas on fighting public corruption; whether they support the appeal of the PUC’s Deepwater decision to the state Supreme Court; whether they think Dean Esserman should continue as Providence’s police chief; whether former police officers can be tough on police officers who break the law; how they grade Patrick Lynch’s tenure as AG; and much more.
It’s quite a combative exchange, that’s for sure – and you can watch the whole thing right here on WPRI.com. On television, the debate is airing as I write this (2:30 p.m. Saturday) on Fox Providence and in prime time tonight on WPRI 12 at 8 p.m. Even Winston Churchill makes a cameo!
And in case you missed it, you can still watch last week’s “Newsmakers” debate between the two Democrats running for lieutenant governor, Elizabeth Roberts, the incumbent, and Jeremy Kapstein, a Boston Red Sox executive. Eyewitness News has more debates planned between now and the Sept. 14 primary, as well as ahead of the Nov. 2 general election, so I will keep you posted.
Back in 2004, Rhode Island – along with seven other states, New York City and three land trusts – filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the nation’s five biggest power companies to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. This past March, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the suit could move forward, setting up a fight between the two sides in the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the Obama administration sided with the power companies (which include the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency), and asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 2nd Circuit’s ruling. The White House’s top lawyer argued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps that make the suit unnecessary.
But environmentalists were angered by other parts of the administration’s brief, as The Washington Post reports:
Moreover, environmental groups said, the government’s brief went beyond that, employing arguments that threatened to undercut a basis for legal action that have been used for a century, since Georgia sued over damage a Tennessee copper smelter was inflicting on Georgia’s forests.
“We’re very angry and very disappointed that they would take this tack,” said David Doniger, policy director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
An administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, replied that the EPA has been taking “a series of regulatory actions indicating that it’s moving forward on greenhouse gases and really making it inappropriate for the courts to step in and take on this issue.”
Attorney General Patrick Lynch joined an environmental organization and two businesses on Monday in asking the Rhode Island Supreme Court to throw out the R.I. Public Utilities Commission’s Aug. 11 decision to sign off on a deal between National Grid and Deepwater Wind.
And in his statement asking the court to take up the case, Lynch draws an eye-popping historical parallel:
Not since the events surrounding the case of Trevett v. Weedon [sic] (1786) – in which the Justices of this Court’s predecessor were summoned to the floor of the General Assembly to face firing for non-implementation of an enactment that abridged specific trials and stripped the court of jurisdiction – has the judicial function been so threatened in this state. …
So too, the current affair – featuring an attempt at retroactive legislative dictation of the result of a case-specific fact question that had been adjudicated – will have an impact far beyond the parties. This case provides an opportunity for the Court to illuminate Rhode Island’s ongoing exploration of the separation-of-powers.
Now that’s what I call a rip-roaring writ of certiorari.
Update: So, what happens next? First, the Supreme Court has to decide whether to take the case. If it does, the two sides will have to file their opposing briefs and then argue the case before the justices. Considering that Deepwater wants to get going on building the wind farm, they may ask for an expedited review, which would likely see the case decided before the end of the year. But that’s just an informed guess.
Updated #2: Turns out the AG’s office was writing a little too hastily – the correct name of that post-Revolutionary War case they referred to was Trevett v. Weeden, not Weedon. But Wikipedia reports (and other sources confirm) that Weeden was one of the cases that set the stage for Marbury v. Madison, the famous 1803 U.S. Supreme Court case that established the principle of judicial review.