September 30, 2009

Erik Wallin: The Cancer That Is Corruption

Engaged Citizen

The cancer that is corruption continues to devour our state. Most recently, the Governor's audit shed light on $75 million of willfully mismanaged taxpayer dollars for insider deals, extravagant bonuses, over-paying, and a variety of other corrupt actions. Taking a step back from these despicable practices for just a moment, one can look at the bigger problem. The Governor ordered this audit by the state's Bureau of Audits almost one year ago, and the audit covered a time period of between 1999 and 2007. It is reasonable to assume that if an investigation went back even further then more of this insider dealing and purposeful mismanagement would be found. What Rhode Islanders can see from these actions at the landfill is inaction from the state's highest elected official responsible for enforcing our laws, the Attorney General.

What we know and do not know is a telling example of the state of affairs. There is little question that laws were broken, and no one can disagree that if charges were brought at the time these illegal acts occurred, or sometime thereafter, then those responsible would be prosecuted. Was any investigation done at any point prior to the Governor's audit by the Attorney General? After the Governor ordered his audit, the Attorney General appointed one prosecutor to assist the State Police and Bureau of Audits with the investigation. This individual also has the responsibility of prosecuting white collar crimes in Rhode Island. Regardless of the talents of this single prosecutor, given what was at stake, was it fair to that person or Rhode Islanders to dedicate so little resources? Is it possible this corruption occurred under the nose of the Attorney General and he had no idea? Rhode Islanders are entitled to answers rather than a statement that no prosecution of anyone involved in this fleecing of taxpayer dollars will occur.

Rhode Islanders deserve an Attorney General who actively seeks out and prosecutes the corruption that litters our state — not just at the landfill but statewide. Public corruption must be a top priority of the Attorney General and the office. No longer can the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting public corruption at the state or municipal level be abdicated to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Governor or to a single prosecutor. Being committed to fighting corruption requires establishing an Attorney General's Public Corruption Task Force, staffed with seasoned prosecutors, investigators and a forensic auditor. The moment corruption is suspected, a corruption task force should immediately initiate an investigation so that those who betray the public trust can no longer hide behind the statute of limitations and escape accountability. An Attorney General 24-hr corruption hotline must be established so that Rhode Islanders can provide information and/or tips. Those who provide information on public corruption, as well as the members of the Attorney General's Public Corruption Task Force, must have confidence that the Attorney General has the integrity and courage to back them, regardless of where and to whom the trail of corruption leads.

Taking the offensive against those who betray the public trust will not only put the corrupt behind bars, but will demonstrate to businesses and all others that we will no longer sit on the sidelines while the future of our State is stolen by the powerful and corrupt insiders. It is time we stand up together and put them on warning that their days are numbered.

Erik Wallin is an attorney in Wakefield, RI, and the presumed Republican candidate for the office of Attorney General in 2010.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

"Public corruption"?

We're in the worst recession in 70 years and he's a one issue candidate running on "public corruption"?

What is he going to do to save state resources with the awesome power of the office?

What is he going to do regarding the insane Drug War against peaceful Rhode Island citizens each year which costs the state untold millions (billions?) in useless prosecutions and $80/day/inmate for three hots and a cot in jail for possession of a plant?

If he doesn't support at least decriminalizing marijuana or stopping prosecution of simple possession as a bare minimum, he is just another power-hungry, party-line authoritarian joker. Anyone who actually cared about Rhode Islanders rather than their own political ambitions would stop the Drug War's endless waste of money and human life immediately.

No one person can do that better than the attorney general can. We don't need a caretaker, we need a leader.

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 8:17 AM

That's insane. The AG's job is to enforce the laws on the books, not change them. Want drug laws changed, talk to your Assembly members.

Do you really want an AG who picks and chooses what he prosecutes for? If you do, then you must LOVE Patrick Lynch.

Posted by: Patrick at September 30, 2009 8:35 AM

Patrick Lynch has an abysmal record as AG. (Why Dan Yorke kisses Pat's a$$ and gives him the velvet glove treatment is a great mystery. Quite bizarre really) His opponents in the Gov's race will have a field day with commercials depicting this hack as just that, a do nothing hack.
*When did Lynch receive the original RIRRC audit? Did he stall until the statute of limitations ran out on family friend Ferland?
*Undercharged the Station fire case. No West Warwick officials (heavily Democrat town/homeotwn of House Speaker) were even slapped on the wrist.
*STILL no trial on the playground of the connected that was Beacon Mutual. Perhasp David Clark's defense might pose an embarrassment to certain well placed Dems.
*Hiring RI Democratic party's human ATM Jack Kook McConnell as lead lawyer in Patrick's attempt to shakedown paint companies to the tune of billions of dollars. If successful McConnell would have made tens of millions in legal fees. Would he have shared his windfall through political donations to local Dems??? Hmmm.....
*Embarrassing travel junkets as R.I. burns
*Lynch family tree of patronage jobs quite an interesting read.

Don't know if Erik Wallin has a chance of winning. What I do know is we need to keep political partisan hacks like Patrick Lynch out of that office.
R.I. needs legitimacy in law enforcement. There is nothing legitimate about Patrick Lynch.

Dan, fire up a blunt. You'll feel better. lol

Posted by: Tim at September 30, 2009 8:48 AM

"That's insane. The AG's job is to enforce the laws on the books, not change them. Want drug laws changed, talk to your Assembly members."

You are forgetting that the Attorney General is perhaps the single most influential voice in determining such laws and policies, and often works with the legislature to enact new state policy. You are also forgetting that the Attorney General exercises a large amount of discretion as to which crimes he is going to allocate resources toward preventing and how vigorously to go after offenders.

"Do you really want an AG who picks and chooses what he prosecutes for?"

That's what the Attorney General does, allocates resources within the office and sets office policy. There is nothing wrong or illegal with an Attorney General deciding to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year by moving drug crimes to the bottom of the priorities list or simply deciding not to enforce simple possession laws in favor of real crimes (the kind with victims).

I seem to remember another zealous Republican "anti-corruption" candidate, now who was it? Ah yes, Buddy Cianci. He ended up in federal prison for RICO violations.

"Anti-corruption" candidates are big game hunters, they just want to bag one or two big names while in office to get in all the headlines and further their own political dreams. Totally contemptible and counter-productive.

Anyone who thinks it is worthwhile to spend $5 million dollars on an investigation to put one or two state employees in prison for accepting $1,000 bribes is delusional. As if that's what this state needs right now. We need to seriously revise AG Office policy to stop prosecuting and throwing people in jail for victimless crimes at jaw-dropping expense to the taxpayers, for fiscal reasons if the immorality of it doesn't convince you. The state is going bankrupt and every state politician has to do their part. Another grand-standing anti-drug, anti-gun, anti-prostitution party-line placeholder is just going to send RI farther into the red, and I don't mean politically. Go after thieves, murderers, real criminals. Table marijuana and related victimless nonsense, hopefully indefinitely but at least until we can afford it.

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 11:54 AM

"Dan, fire up a blunt. You'll feel better."

I have never smoked marijuana in my life, Tim. I just recognize that this quixotic crusade against peaceful people is probably the single biggest factor dragging our state into the muck, it's unfathomably expensive and in case you haven't noticed, we're in a slight financial crisis at the moment.

The Drug War is a miserable failure, perhaps the worst and most destructive in this country's history. Why vote for somebody who is going to continue failed policy for personal political reasons?

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 11:59 AM

Dan, I don't think either of us has any idea what you're talking about now. First you ripped Wallin for wanting to go after corruption and instead you want him to change the laws (or at least not prosecute) with regard to drug offenses. Wallin never said anything in the letter about drug offenses. He didn't say he's going after those people or not. You're putting your issue into his post somehow. You want an AG candidate to come out and say "I'm moving all drug offenses to the bottom of my priorities list!"? That sounds like a winning strategy for AG?

"I seem to remember another zealous Republican "anti-corruption" candidate, now who was it? Ah yes, Buddy Cianci."

Umm, that's where you're wrong, technically. When Buddy was busted, he was an Independent. The first time he was elected, he was a Republican, but when he was elected the second time and busted on RICO, he was an independent, not a Republican. He was just as much a Democrat as he was Republican.

Posted by: Patrick at September 30, 2009 12:17 PM

Public corruption is the anchor attaching this state to the bottom of the cesspool of the U.S. economy, making it impossible for Rhode Island to attract or keep business here.

Public corruption should be the number one issue of every person running for Attorney General. If public corruption is not a top priority, likely that candidate is living off the state - forever holding a public job, entrenched in the democratic party, entrenched in the politics of employment by the State, a municipality/school system (or has relatives who are so employed), a union, or all three.

Get real Dan, you worry about the cost of prosecuting pot smokers and ignore the cost to this state of public corruption. That's a cost to every one of us and to the future, or lack thereof, of our children who might like to live in Rhode Island.

At least Robert Corrente went after the criminals who broke the public trust, who used their offices for personal gain (should have taken up the cause against Irons too). Patrick Lynch is a do-nothing AG and has been from the start. Oops, sorry, I forgot about his great advice to the governor on the Narr. Indian smoke shop - so he has done a few things, just nothing to brag about.

I'm sure Patrick Lynch is not worried about losing the race for governor - it's only a matter of time before he puts his name in for a judgeship or other appointment - the whole family thinks that RI Taxpayers owe them a living and an office - and the democrats in the GA will mostly pull the necessary "deals" in order annoint him.

Posted by: riborn at September 30, 2009 12:41 PM

Riborn, I'm not "pro" public corruption. It is a terrible, terrible thing, and there is no doubt that it hurts business in the state.

But if you think that the AG can just set up a task force and launch some investigations and clean up the corruption, you have no clue how such things work in the real world.

Let me tell you exactly what would happen (as I have seen it happen previously in RI and more recently MA).

Wallin gets elected. He hires 5 expensive new prosecutors for his public corruption prosecution force. They spend the next 2-3 years working with the state police in expensive and lengthy investigations, most of which turn up jack squat or only net small fish. He then spends the next 1-5 years (depending on if he is reelected) going after one or two big fish, maybe in the mayor's office or state legislature, more prosecutors, more police, more money. Finally, if he is lucky, he scrounges up some dirt on somebody notable, gets his name in all the papers for months in connection with the prosecution, grandstands for the media, and the person goes to jail for a few years.

Cost to taxpayers = $5 million (a very conservative estimate, probably more like $10-15 million)

Result? One or two people go to jail while the other 500 corrupt public employees in the state continue operations like nothing happened.

It's all bullshit, pardon my French. It would change NOTHING and simply waste money. It isn't going to attract business to RI, no way in hell.

On the other hand, there are many policy changes he could make as AG, which are directly under his control and would directly save the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars, but we hear nothing about that, and I'm sure he is just going to continue the insane Drug War as his Republican puppet masters tell him to do, so that he can run for some other office at a later date. I'm not saying he shouldn't prosecute corrupt officials, but my goodness, to make that his one big issue?

This public corruption platform is nonsense. Self-serving nonsense which helps no one but himself.

In these desperate times, we need to get our priorities straight and we need to do what WORKS. The Drug War has failed. Scale it back or end it. The same with all these other nonsensical victimless crimes the AG's office spends millions of dollars each year prosecuting. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Let's do something different for once, what have we got to lose?

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 2:58 PM

You either care about ethics or not, and I want an AG who not only cares, but will walk the walk and get the job done to clean up this state's politicians and the 'ins".

Dan is the example of what happens when ethics is the lowest or of no priority: the voters get cynical and apathetic and just give up, like Dan has.

We need an AG who is ethical and who stands for doing the right thing, and that has to include cleaning up the corruption. Someone who believes that the investigation, prosecution and conviction will each have an affect - set some examples. One less corrupt politician out there who thinks they can get away with it, and one more example to the rest of them. Bill Irons may not be in jail, but don't think he's living it up anymore. Same for Celona. Buddy ought to be a pariah, but he is the beneficiary of Dan's kind of acquiescence: a convicted corrupt politician being "accepted" as though he is an ethical, honest, moral person, given benefits that should not be available to him.

Not to make that connection is to just throw up our hands and say "go ahead and steal from us". It's bad enough that so many people feed at the public trough who are related to these crooks, and that's another area to be looking into. How do we legally get rid of all of these politicians' relatives that are on the public dole sitting in a state job?

I want to hear alot more from Mr. Wallin! He needs a grass roots campaign, and he needs to start raising money because the dems are going to come to the race with fat pocketbooks - thanks to all those union members they are all beholden to after the election!

Posted by: riborn at September 30, 2009 7:02 PM

Riborn, I'm not throwing up my hands, and I'm not accepting corrupt politicians as "ethical, honest, moral" people. Where did you even get that from?

I said that corrupt politicians should be prosecuted, when it makes sense to do so. But in light of everything that is happening right now, making that the big issue of a campaign is backwards. We should be looking for ways to fix our broken justice system and save resources for important things. The fact that peaceful people wouldn't have their lives ruined anymore by enforcement of victimless crime laws would be a bonus, if you want to talk about morality.

You didn't address my point that the state is going bankrupt, the job of an AG is to prioritize and set office policy, and that focusing on public corruption will do nothing for digging this state out of its hole (it will make it worse) while simply making minor adjustments in the illegal drug or gun possession enforcement policies could save the state $100 million overnight with no negative consequences. Yeah, it's nice to catch a crooked politician once in a while, but not when it's at the cost of hundreds of people losing their jobs or houses.

To make an analogy, I'm not saying it would be a bad idea to fix your garage for $2000, but your $400,000 house is burning down at the moment.

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 7:51 PM


Public corruption, taking money intended for a public purpose and using it to enrich oneself and one's friends, is stealing. In the case of the RIRR, the subject of Mr. Wallin's posting, the total amount involved is in the tens of millions of dollars. You have to be the most statist libertarian ever encountered to say that the misuse of tens of millions of dollars shouldn't be a priority for law enforcement, so long as it's an arm of the government that does the stealing.

In the "free state project", will it be alright for money that's been given for a specific purpose to whatever minimalist government you have -- say the contracts enforcement division, for instance – to instead be used however the officials who control its disbursement want to?

Posted by: Andrew at September 30, 2009 9:51 PM

" Anyone who actually cared about Rhode Islanders rather than their own political ambitions would stop the Drug War's endless waste of money and human life immediately.

No one person can do that better than the attorney general can."

Dan, you have your branches of government mixed up. Only the legislature (state as well as federal) can accomplish the above. As Patrick said, "The AG's job is to enforce the laws on the books, not change them."

And RIBorn is spot on. Corruption, legal and illegal, is the acid that has been eating away at this state for decades. It is a major contributing factor to our lousy economy, bad roads, high taxes and well funded school system with poor academic achievement.

It'd be nice to have an AG who recognizes this fact and is willing to act on it, in contrast to the current and prior occupants who used the office and carried out their official duties principally to advance their political careers.

Posted by: Monique at September 30, 2009 10:36 PM

Andrew, your point is invalid for two reasons. The first is that Wallins "corruption task force" or whatever he would do as AG would most likely not get that money back or prevent it from being misappropriated proactively, that would be nearly impossible. The second is that his heightened public corruption probes would cost the state millions just to keep its own operations going with no definite return on that investment.

Scaling back the insane Drug War would save at least $100 million for sure, and it would do it immediately. The beautiful thing is that in order to realize that money we wouldn't have to set up a special task force, we would simply have to DO NOTHING and stop throwing peaceful people in jail for nonsense.

Monique, I will respond to you the same way I responded to Patrick, the AG is probably the single most influential person in the state with regard to law enforcement policy. He or she chooses policy and can use his or her discretion to back off of enforcement when it is wise to do so. The legislature is going to do jack squat to end these victimless crime crusades that cost us hundreds of millions of dollars to incarcerate peaceful people for possession of a plant, it is too lucrative for them to keep their cop union and private prison buddies in business.

I agree that corruption is important to tackle, but focusing on it and spending millions on it at the worst possible time in the worst possible crisis while ignoring easy ways to save far more money is quixotic. There is no reasonable justification for it.

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2009 11:14 PM

Sorry Dan, the fact that you have a personal belief that laws against crime shouldn't be enforced, when there's no guarantee that enforcement will return the world to its pre-crime state, doesn’t invalidate my point. The same reasoning can be applied to justify not investigating so many murders, because hey, we can't bring the dead people back and there's no guarantee that investigating a past murder will stop a future one. And depending on who it is that was killed, can we really be sure it will improve the economy? These are not the relevant standards in criminal cases.

I'm still interested in the answer to my question about the "free state project"; will its leaders be expected to use public funds for their intended purpose, or will they have absolute authority to spend money any way they see fit, once it is under their control?

Posted by: Andrew at October 1, 2009 8:59 AM

Andrew, libertarians and voluntaryists believe that anybody committing fraud or misusing public funds should be held responsible for that. They value property rights even more than conservatives do.

We aren't talking about lawlessness here, or turning a blind eye to anything.

What we are talking about is simple acknowledgment of the fact that resources are scarce, the state is in one of the worst financial crises in its history, and we can't do all the things we want to do. In other words, we need to get the most bang for our buck and make some hard choices.

As important as launching special investigations (different from simple enforcement) into public corruption may be, it is one of the worst allocations of the Office's resources possible at this time. It is impossible at this time to justify spending $5-10 million and 4-5 special prosecutors on an investigation that will likely put 1 or 2, if any, politicians in jail for corruption over a 4 year timespan. It's not a horrible idea, for all the reasons you, Monique and Patrick discuss, but to make that his one big issue right now is insanity. It should be at the bottom of the list. It's just self-serving grandstanding to get his name in the paper every day and a weak attempt to convince people that he is above dirty politics and corruption (we have no evidence of this except his word, hence my Buddy Cianci example of another Republican "anti-corruption candidate").

As for all the victimless crime nonsense that the Office spends most of its resources on at the moment, this crisis simply underscores the fact that throwing people in jail for simple possession offenses is not only immoral, it is an ungodly waste of taxpayer resources. Perhaps the worst waste of resources in this country's history.

Posted by: Dan at October 1, 2009 9:23 AM

Sorry, Dan, I disagree. And when you make a statement as strong as

" it is one of the worst allocations of the Office's resources possible at this time"

it makes you sound like the staffer of a legislator who has been accepting graft and fears that his boss will get caught if the wrong AG gets into office.

Just out of curiosity, what do you believe an AG candidate (or AG) should focus?

Posted by: Monique at October 2, 2009 8:29 AM


You need to spend some time pondering what you're actually saying, when you say that libertarians value private property rights more than anyone at the same time the "hard choice" you want to make is to ignore government misuse of resources taken from the people. That reduces value for private property rights to a slogan, rather than to a belief that is acted upon.

I don't really have any idea what percentage of time the AG's office spends on what you would define as "victimless" crimes versus enforcing other kinds of laws, but whatever the answer is, there's no reason that reducing "victimless" crime prosecutions would require freezing or reducing efforts at enforcing laws against corruption.

Posted by: Andrew at October 2, 2009 11:32 AM


I never said we have to freeze or reduce efforts at enforcing laws against corruption. I think that they should be enforced.

I never even said we couldn't expand it if necessary.

I just said that making this his one big issue or creating additional special investigations into corruption when he has no guarantee that he will turn up anything at all for all the money and manpower invested is a fool's errand at the moment. Now if he received a tip or a police report to the effect that there was corruption going on in a specific office, something of that nature, that might justify the expense. But just walking through the door with a crusade against corruption that may or may not exist in any one place is misguided and a waste.

Posted by: Dan at October 2, 2009 3:20 PM

"Just out of curiosity, what do you believe an AG candidate (or AG) should focus?"

I think the biggest goal of the AG should be to reduce the harm and expense resulting directly from the insane Drug War, and to stop sending peaceful people to jail or otherwise ruining their lives when they haven't harmed anyone.

As for focuses, the traditional stuff that all AG's enforce such as murder, theft, assault, fraud, and yes, corruption.

If the Drug War were curtailed even a bit, enforcement in all those other areas could be doubled and there would still be money and resources left over for the taxpayer.

Posted by: Dan at October 2, 2009 3:25 PM


Your initial objection to this post was the fact that AG candidate Wallin wants to expand efforts to prosecute public corruption. You are losing coherence here.

Posted by: Andrew at October 2, 2009 4:59 PM

Wallin's piece doesn't indicate that public corruption is his "one big issue". Presumably it is a priority because he took the time to write about it. I'd like to see more of what he has to say.

I can't follow the victimless crimes and drug war thinking as it relates to rooting out and prosecuting corrupt public employees and officials - and hopefully their benefactors and beneficiaries too. (Whatever happened to CVS in the federal public corruption investigations?)

If something is illegal, prosecute it across the board. What we don't need is another AG with so many and deep political connections that some people are prosecuted for breaking laws while those with the connections are not prosecuted for breaking the same or different laws.

Posted by: riborn at October 2, 2009 8:08 PM

"If something is illegal, prosecute it across the board. "

No, some laws are evil or deserve less attention based on the harm they do to peaceful people or the limited benefit they have. Just because something is illegal doesn't make it bad or wrong. A principled AG can serve as a check on the lawmaking process.

"What we don't need is another AG with so many and deep political connections that some people are prosecuted for breaking laws while those with the connections are not prosecuted for breaking the same or different laws. "

I agree that laws should be applied equally across the population and not for political reasons, but I do not agree that all laws are good laws and should be vigorously enforced.

Posted by: Dan at October 3, 2009 11:03 AM

I agree. See this website here:

Posted by: Citizen Critic at October 18, 2009 2:56 AM

If weed becomes totally legalized on plant sort and lenient with commercialization -- some stance essentially supported via the National Organization for those Reform for Marijuana procedures (NORML) -- just one notoriously vile number of manufacturers is without a doubt uniquely poised as cool as any several other to take control of the surfacing market: significant Tobacco. Having perfectly established it is disinterest in your public well being generations ago by shady advertising and marketing of smoking cigarettes, the perception of Big smoking becoming the nation's pot provider should discourage anyone favoring legalization not to mention regulation.

Posted by: Mario at November 17, 2010 11:52 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.