This is the second in a four-part series of candidate profiles for state-wide offices. As a good-government and taxpayer advocacy organization, OSTPA looks at each office through the lens of providing effective government at a sustainable cost to businesses and individuals, ultimately leading to prosperity for all RI citizens. You can read the Secretary of State profile distributed last week here. We urge you to discuss the candidates and the offices with your family, your friends and your business colleagues and pass along the link to those who are interested in finding out more about the candidates.
Candidate Profiles - Attorney General -
Dawson Hodgson and Peter Kilmartin
It's Our Money and No One in Power Appears To Be Doing Anything About It.
There have been no announced investigative results on the 38 Studios issue since the time the media informed us that the 'state police were handling it'. We watched in this year's legislative session as Representatives MacBeth and Chippendale persistently tried to conduct an investigation without subpoena power. Significant facts were identified, but that commission was limited without the ability to force the players to answer questions.
Whose Role Is It Anyway?
If legislative efforts have been underwhelming, the efforts by our statewide officers have been virtually nonexistent. In Rhode Island, the Attorney General's office carries a special responsibility as the people's lawyer. Access to the courts to preserve personal liberties, protect taxpayers, and vindicate the disenfranchised is limited for citizens themselves and the Attorney General is their surrogate.
This role touches policies that have been of particular importance to OSTPA throughout its work at the legislature. Our profile of candidates for the AG's Office focuses on their approach to this role in public trust.
38 Studios is on our mind (as it is with regard to many important races in the state) and your Attorney General has unique standing to protect the citizens here. There are legal and ethical questions that could be pursued from a white collar crime perspective, but more importantly there is the continuing question of how the state could borrow money without a constitutionally mandated referendum. And following the shameful techniques used to evade the Constitution, how can Wall Street analysts effectively insist that the state's credit rating is at risk when it is not legally obligated to pay the bondholders?
The tenure of incumbent Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has been largely characterized by silence when it comes to this issue. He generally defers to civil recovery litigation, not being managed by the AG's office, and he accepts bond rating agencies' negative warnings about the state's credit ratings as opinions – indeed he suggests they are reasonable opinions by ticking off theoretically business oriented organizations such as the RI Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) and the Providence Chamber of Commerce who both lobbied for the state subsidies to bondholders.
Challenger Dawson Hodgson has suggested that such rating agency analyses should be challenged because they undermine the sovereignty of the state and the prerogative of the legislature. He sees a role for the Attorney General in challenging rating agencies' statements that have a faulty basis in law. And Hodgson has proposed a commission, paralleling the one formed after the failure of the credit unions in the early '90s, that would make the investigation of 38 Studios a matter of public record rather than hushed proceedings.
Hijacking the Cost of Utilities for Average Ratepayers.
Another important role that the Attorney General plays as the people's Attorney, one that intersects with OSTPA policy issues, is the monitoring of utility rates and practices especially through the Public Utilities Commission process. While far from the state's only ridiculous foray into alternative energy, Deepwater Wind is the biggest one by far, threatening $350 to $400 million dollars in excess costs to citizens - a guaranteed rate increase to the public.
Incumbent Attorney General Kilmartin, who was in the legislature that approved Deepwater, in the highly irregular fashion of taking the issue from the Public Utilities Commission that had rejected the project, has continued to explicitly support the wind farm. Immediately upon taking office, he withdrew an appeal by the Attorney General's office, brought on behalf of ratepayers, that objected to the excess costs of the project. In doing so he reversed the course of his predecessor, Democrat Patrick Lynch.
Challenger Dawson Hodgson has decried the Deepwater project as a "boondoggle" and believes the Attorney General should be a skeptic of what are essentially public expenditures. Hodgson has expressed an openness to legally appropriate legislative measures to stop the project.
Government Transparency a Must.
Yet another important public trust function of the Attorney General is the enforcement of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Transparency in government has been an important goal for OSTPA board members, predating the founding of this organization.
Attorney General Kilmartin was credited with authoring legislation that made modest improvements to limit exemptions in the APRA but his actual record of enforcing the law when government subdivisions fail to follow it has been criticized from both the right and the left. Notably, an ACLU report all but called the Attorney General derelict in this department. A Providence Journal editorial criticized Kilmartin particularly on the APRA, especially his recent decision that applicants for public records can be charged for the cost of denying them access to those public records! While the $15 fee at issue is not in itself onerous, it is quite easy to see the concept expanded to include the legal work necessary to support the letter denying the records. Implicit in AG Kilmartin's approach is a much greater lack of transparency.
Challenger Hodgson has criticized AG Kilmartin for being rhetorically, but not actually, committed to open public records. Hodgson has said that Rhode Island has strong laws on access to public records but lackluster enforcement.
In November, you must decide which candidate addresses the issues that are important to you. In addition to their opposing approaches on 38 Studios, Deepwater Wind and access to public records, there are other issues to consider when voting in the upcoming election. We have highlighted a couple of them below. For more insight we encourage you to access the candidates' websites and review their debate on Newsmakers as well as individual interviews in which they have each participated.
Dawson Hodgson Profile
Hodgson on State of Mind with Dan Yorke
Hodson/Kilmartin Newsmakers debate
Prosecutor in RI AG's Office
Member of Senate Judiciary, Government Oversight and Labor
Drafted proposal for 38 Studios investigation
Endorsed by Brotherhood of Corrections Officers
Supports Constitutional Convention
Opposes Drivers' Licenses for Illegal Aliens
#1 Goal - Safe Streets, Fixing RI's reputation
Peter Kilmartin Profile
Kilmartin on RI NPR
Hodgson/Kilmartin Newsmakers debate
Former State Representative (1991-2010)
Former Majority Whip under Speaker Fox
Former Captain Pawtucket Police
Endorsed by the Providence Journal
Opposes Constitutional Convention
Supports Drivers' Licenses for Illegal Aliens
#1 Goal - Protect and Advocate for the Community