May 26, 2010

Erik Wallin's Anti-Corruption Plan, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Attorney General candidate Erik Wallin has definitely (and thankfully) not bought into the "you have pass a bill to find out what's in a bill" attitude towards lawmaking currently en vogue in the United States Congress. On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Wallin unveiled the specific changes to the law he intends to introduce, to fight against public corruption, if he is elected as Rhode Island's Attorney General. The entire legislative package is available from his campaign website.

Immediately below, I have posted several key excerpts, along with audio of Mr. Wallin's explanation of how they will change the status-quo...

  1. Erik Wallin: "Individuals who engage in bribery will face the toughest penalties in this country..."
    11-7.1-2 Public Bribery -- (a) Every person who shall corruptly give or offer to any public servant or candidate, or any public servant or candidate who shall agree to accept, or attempt to obtain from any person, for himself or herself or any other person any gift or valuable consideration, as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do, or for having done or forborne to do, any public act shall be guilty of bribery and shall be imprisoned not less than fifteen (15) years nor more than twenty (20) years, with no term of imprisonment provided for under this section to be suspended, and shall be fined not more than Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($750,000) or three times the amount of the consideration, whichever is greater.
  2. EW: "Anyone who is convicted of a public corruption offense will lose their pension..."
    11-41-31 Pension revocation. -- (a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, any person who is convicted or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to any offense, and the offense is related to his or her public office of employment pursuant to § 36-10.12, the judge, as part of any sentence imposed, may shall revoke or reduce any retirement or any benefit or payment to which the public official or public employee is otherwise entitled under titles 36, 16, 45, and 8, under chapter 30 of title 28, under chapter 43 of title 31 or under chapter 28 of title 42.
  3. EW: "We have removed the statute of limitations for those who engage in public corruption..."
    12-12-17 Statute of limitations. -- (a) There shall be no statute of limitations for the following offenses: treason against the state, any homicide, arson, first degree arson, second degree arson, third degree arson, burglary, counterfeiting, forgery, robbery, rape, first degree sexual assault, first degree child molestation sexual assault, second degree child molestation sexual assault, bigamy, any public corruption offense under chapter 7.1 of title 11, manufacturing, selling, distribution or possession with intent to manufacture, sell or distribute a controlled substance under the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, chapter 28 of title 21, or any other offense for which the maximum penalty provided is life imprisonment.
  4. EW: "We will have a public corruption profiteering penalty..."
    11-7.1-6 Civil liability for violations of the public trust and public corruption profiteering penalty -- (a) Whenever a person has engaged in conduct prohibited by this chapter, or otherwise breached a fiduciary duty to an entity that holds, appropriates, or receives public funds, there shall accrue to the entity a civil action to recover three times the amount of the sum involved in the alleged violation. This cause of action shall accrue independent of any criminal prosecution, and recovery shall be had where it appears, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the public trust has been violated.
Coming in Part 2: A permanent anti-corruption task force and provision for a special prosecutor...

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.

Removing the statute of limitations on Bigamy? Is that a large problem?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 26, 2010 8:19 AM

Blue is proposed additions to the law. Red strike-through is proposed removals. Unadorned black text is current law involving no proposed changes. (This is the convention used by the GA).

In other words, the only modification to existing statue of limitations law being proposed by Wallin is the addition of the public corruption piece.

Posted by: Andrew at May 26, 2010 8:26 AM

I'm all for any and every anti-corruption activity, but I just have one question, what is the difference between a bribe and any normal campaign donation?

What's the purpose of a bribe and what's the purpose of a campaign donation? Is there a definite difference or do the lines blur?

I donate to Republican candidates because I want them to vote the way I prefer and also, I donate to candidates who *do* vote the way I prefer.

Business X gives money to a candidate so they will vote a specific way.

What's the difference?

Posted by: Patrick at May 26, 2010 8:56 AM

Wallin is everything that is wrong with modern day law enforcement.

He falls victim to the brainless "increase the jail sentence until it stops" mentality on nearly every issue, even when there is a very weak or nonexistent link between jail sentence and deterrence.

In the middle of a modern depression, he focuses on public corruption as his driving issue, which is probably the most costly and difficult crime to investigate and prosecute. Anyone who thinks that hiring a few extra people to the AG's office and calling then a "corruption task force" is going to change anything is delusional. Most corruption cases are targets of opportunity, that's just the nature of the beast and always will be.

He fear mongers about "sexual predators lurking in our alleyways" (you can't make this stuff up) when all the studies show that most sexual assaults occur between people who previously knew each other or were related, and sex offense has one of the lowest recidivism rates of all crimes. There's nothing lurking in our alleyways, we're living in Rhode Island, not Lord of the Rings.

He blindly forges forward with the quixotic Drug War which brings violent gang activity to Providence just like Alcohol Prohibition, fills our prisons with non-violent people with a chemical dependence who need treatment, and forgoes the massive economic benefits that marijuana decriminalization or legalization would bring to Rhode Island (marijuana is California's largest cash crop).

All the while prancing around with a painful canned speech chant of "ARE YOU READY RHODE ISLANDERS?"

As head law enforcement position, and following a very unpopular Democratic officeholder, Attorney General should be the easiest seat for RIGOP to win in the entire state. What is it going to take for us to get a real candidate? It almost infuriates me enough to run as a Republican just to embarrass this fool in the debates.

Wallin will get what, the obligatory 30% anti-incumbent party vote?

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 11:38 AM

Here would be some basic, common-sense aspects of my platform:

- Bring in top-notch legal talent, from out of state if necessary. Hire experienced non-political firm/government attorneys for the civil division and government bureau, experienced DA's for the criminal division. Start an AG's honors program that attracts top law students to apply, rather than discouraging virtually all qualified candidates with a hard RI bar passage requirement as the office does now (this is a huge problem, we lose all the best candidates to NY and MA). This would simply bring us into line with what other AG's offices do now.

- Shift resources into prosecuting property crimes and violent crimes, and away from simple drug possession and prostitution enforcement, replacing them with less expensive and more effective court-ordered treatment programs.

- Advocate for decriminalization or legalization of marijuana possession with taxation and regulation by the state to bring in millions in revenue.

- Support reform of Rhode Island's draconian probation laws, which cause individuals to serve substantial jail time for infractions they did not commit.

- Support the incorporation of Heller and commit to protecting the 2nd Amendment and self-defense rights of Rhode Island gun owners.

- Sue the federal government over the health-care bill. The job of the attorney general is to protect state interests and challenge the constitutionality of federal statutes that would infringe on the duties traditionally reserved for the state.

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 12:28 PM


In response to your question, I would offer that there is a pretty well-defined difference between a politician taking campaign money from people who agree with his general policy stances, and a politician changing a vote purely for reasons of personal financial gain, though there are some in-between possibilities (i.e. reduced campaign donations might play a role, for example, in a former amnesty-favoring United States Senator deciding he will be more vocally in favor of enforcement first, but I don't think many people would call that political corruption [corruption of the soul is another matter]).

There is also a basic split between giving someone money to help them get elected and giving a politician, just to use a crazy example, a cut rate on furnace installation at his residence, in return for preferential consideration on over-priced city contracts (though that possibility is just too bizarre to ever actually happen).

And there is also a meaningful split between government's administrative functions and its broader public-policy role. When considering a vote that will effect the entire nation, state, or community, it is legitimately difficult to pin down a exact motivation, whereas if zoning variances aren't occurring in a certain situation until the business or person affected makes some extra-legal payments, that is an area where corrupt intent can be legitimately evaluated.

Combined, these considerations can define some definite gray areas, but also some areas that should be rightfully out-of-bounds.


Where was the targeting of opportunity from the RIAG in Central Falls, North Providence, or with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (various examples cited by Wallin)? I don't think that turning the AG into the state's Drug Legalization Advocate is going to help improve things in this area.

Posted by: Andrew at May 26, 2010 3:07 PM

Thanks Andrew.

However, you said:

"...a politician changing a vote..."

Doesn't necessary have to be a change. I don't think that all politicians really have a stance on every single issue. I'm sure on many of the issues, they're either uneducated or don't care and just go the way of their party or that their friends ask them to.

But maybe there's a really good reason for a state to try to limit the number of health insurance providers they have, and would there be any problem with the existing health insurance providers making sure that politicians on the fence were properly educated on the issue, even if that cost the provider a lot of money?

I do think that non-monetary transactions are pretty ugly, like free Patriots/Red Sox tickets or a discounted furnace? Would anyone actually do that? Wow. I would hope that anyone who took a discounted furnace in exchange for a preferential contract in a city would certainly be led out of his publicly-elected office in handcuffs. But lucky for us, none of our local politicians would ever do such a thing.

On quite a bit of a tangent to the "campaign donation is similar to a bribe" thing, I've also often wondered how both the pension and social security systems in this country aren't really a big ponzi scheme. The goal is to always more people paying in than you're paying out, but eventually you do run out of people paying in. Kinda like when you have baby boomers collecting and a smaller generation paying in. Hmm.

Posted by: Patrick at May 26, 2010 4:07 PM

Andrew, what we have in the RIAG's Office is incompetence due to torn attention, conflicts of interest, and a lack of fresh top-notch legal talent. I'm not sure you or Wallin quite understand what role the AG's Office plays in fighting public corruption. Public corruption is detected and investigated by the police departments and the FBI, not the AG's Office. The AG's Office is a bunch of lawyers who come in wearing suits and sit in air conditioned cubicles and courtrooms all day (not knocking it, been there, done that). The AG's Office can certainly work with them for legal guidance as necessary during their investigations, but it's role is primarily enforcement after the fact. Hiring or redesignating a few people as a "public corruption task force" will not help the situation one iota. Remember when four public fraud investigators from the RI Department of Labor were caught on camera running personal errands on the clock? That's what you get with this type of a myopic quick fix approach. These people (whom I assume would be personal friends of Wallin or local GOP hacks) will be twiddling their thumbs and/or working on other divisions' case loads. What is needed is an overhaul of the office's resource management and hiring policies to prioritize constructive rather than destructive law enforcement and create an environment of top talent and excellence.

The decriminalization/legalization of marijuana is just a single no-brainer issue that would save the state 10's of millions every year in incarceration and enforcement costs, bring in 10's of millions in tax revenue, and reduce gang violence in the state caused by prohibition. Not to age discriminate, but how anybody under the age of 90 could possibly argue that marijuana is addictive or a gateway drug that can be solved through incarceration in the year 2010 is beyond me. I've never met a single doctor in my entire life who advocates for keeping it criminal and LEAP does a phenomenal job of explaining the problems it has created.

P.S. Are you campaigning for Wallin?

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 4:24 PM

I think Erik Wallin knows RI enough that his corruption bill is a good idea. I think all the GA members should sign onto the bill if they want to be taken seriously. We have had so many corrupt politicians, that this might give these guys an opportunity to think a little harder before taking the bribe.

The current AG is so corrupt. He helps his friends. He tried to ignore the voter fraud in E Prov, but of course he was voting from his ex-wifes house for two election cycles so it would be hard to prosecute people when he was voting fraudulently too. The land fill deal, Chucky Moreau, and of course the disaster at the Station Fire in WW.

It will be a pleasure to have an AG in office that we can actually trust, and isn't more of creep than the criminals he prosecutes.

Posted by: Kathy at May 26, 2010 4:50 PM

No Dan, I'm not campaigning for anyone, but I think political candidates that take the time to put concrete proposals out early in an election cycle deserve to have those proposals considered. I don't have the ability to look directly into a candidate's heart and mind to know how well they will fulfill the "I will surround myself with good people" promise that all candidates make, and which you seem to think is the only thing that needs to be done to fight Rhode Island's unpleasantly high level of political corruption.

But apparently you can tell whether a candidate will make good hires, based solely on whether or not they intend to give your pet issue of drug legalization advocacy a primary position in their AG's administration!

Posted by: Andrew at May 26, 2010 6:43 PM

It's more that I am cynical by nature and presume that any candidate, especially one who happened to attend RI's own local fourth-tier law school, will bring in friends and political hacks unless they pledge not to do so. To rebut my presumption (fair or unfair), they could also explain how they are going to restructure the office's absurd and counterproductive hiring processes to make such a change possible and attract good talent to our state, which we have been sorely lacking for some time.

As far as Rhode Island law enforcement is concerned, I'd hardly consider the Drug War a "pet issue" of mine when somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of all incarcerations are drug related and it costs the state around $40 million a year in direct costs to say nothing of foregone tax revenue. I suppose Wallin thinks we can keep arresting our way out of the problem (his answer to everything, apparently), which has worked so phenomenally these past 40 years that drugs are now cheaper and more widely available than ever before. But I'm sure Wallin knows better than all of the medical doctors and scientists who tell us that marijuana is not even a dangerous or addictive substance in the first place.

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 7:16 PM

Dan, thank you pointing out the lack of influence on deterence that jail time has. The only real deterrent is certainty of punishment. "Criminal history" is full of examples where people are taken from a "No Death Penalty" state to a "Death Penalty" state before they are murdered. No one is going to "do a year" for $10,000 if they know they will be caught. Excluding married couples, the current figures look like this, IIRC, your chances of being apprehended for a violent crime is 1 in 100, you chances of doing time are 1 in 10. Armed robbery looks pretty good, if the "take" is big enough. Can't compare with "unarmed robbery" in politics.

Of course, in Rhode Island, when you get out you can get a good job on the radio. I think that shows where public sentiment is. Massachusetts also has a felon on WRKO.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 26, 2010 7:58 PM


Cynical, maybe, but mainly elitist. All we need to do is fill positions with lawyers from big-name law schools -- who of course will know that drug legalization advocacy needs to be top priority -- and everything else will take care of itself! I'll keep looking at the ideas, rather than stopping at the credentials, if you don't mind. In fact, even if you do.

Posted by: Andrew at May 26, 2010 8:52 PM

Perhaps you're right, Andrew. All the successful big name law firms who spend millions of dollars every year courting top law students from Tier 1 schools are misguided and wasting their time and money. The NY and MA Attorneys General who hire right out of Harvard, Yale, Boston College, Boston University, NYU and other nearby Tier 1 schools are similarly all misguided and elitist. They should all just saunter down to Roger Williams Law School and hire 50% of their incoming associates from there, like the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office does. And they should protect their state's interest by only hiring people already local, since nobody from out of state could possibly do a good job without being "born and raised."

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 10:49 PM

Exactly, Warrington. At some point it just becomes a matter of whether the criminal thinks they will actually be caught or not (or whether the criminal is thinking at all) regardless of what the punishment is.

It reminds me of the old economist's method of trying to measure the value of a human life by asking people how much money they would be willing to risk their life for. But all it's really measuring is the point at which people consider a low probability to be sufficiently close to zero, so the entire method is flawed.

As if a corrupt politician would take a $5,000 bribe and risk ruining their career, ending up on the front page of the paper, disgracing themselves, etc. if the sentence guideline is 10 years, but not if the sentence guideline is changed to 15 years. It's feel-good, do-nothing conservative nonsense, just like progressives have their feel-good, do-nothing welfare programs.

Posted by: Dan at May 26, 2010 10:59 PM


Condescension is a poor supplement to your imprecise reasoning. Originally, you weren't talking about the composition of the staff, you were talking about the guy making the hiring decisions -- and apparently you believe that hire-the-best-people possible is a secret of success revealed only to the elite at "tier-1" law schools, that no one outside of that circle can grasp or practice.

Treating political leadership as a closed-club, only open to a few people with the proper pedigree, whether that pedigree is a hereditary title or a narrowly-defined range of academic credentials that ignores an individual's lifetime body of work, will always lead a system to atrophy and decay.

Posted by: Andrew at May 27, 2010 7:18 AM

Andrew, the person elected AG sets the tone of the office and will largely determine the composition of the office, therefore it is impossible to talk about one without the other.

I never said it had to be a "closed club." This is all or nothing thinking and a fallacy on your part. We can set our sights a little higher than hiring massive throngs of lawyers from the local 4th tier law school as a result of protectionist hiring policies and political/familial patronage without having an elitist "closed club." There is a mile of middle-ground there. I'm not sure what your personal background is, nor do I particularly care contrary to your assertion, but the fact that you apparently see all academic achievement including law school degree and grades as meaningless "pedigree" is telling of a substantial chip on your shoulder and a pretty sad statement for the future our state. Unfortunately your view is shared by most local politicians in RI and the AG's office, which is one reason our state government suffers so badly. Visit the MA or NY, or pretty much any other AG's office and you will see quite a difference in the hiring that goes on there. We are one of the few offices that I am aware of that doesn't even bother to have an honors program to attract good candidates. It is a huge long-term problem.

Posted by: Dan at May 27, 2010 10:44 AM

No, closed-club thinking is what you are describing by saying that you can tell whether someone will engage in protectionist hiring or inappropriate political/familial patronage or any other bad stuff simply by looking at the name of the school on their law diploma. Because the people who go to tier-1 law schools have higher ethics? Is that your argument (that you are saying is not uncomfortably elitist)?

But the part I find most amusing about your mischaracterization of what I've said is that you try to claim that I don't value actual achievement, when I made clear that you have to consider the actual body of work that accompanies a credential -- but as soon as you came across the idea that a credential by itself is not a qualification, you tuned everything else out.

Posted by: Andrew at May 27, 2010 11:15 AM

Yes, somebody who went to the local Rhode Island fourth-tier law school is far more likely to engage in protectionist Rhode Island hiring and local patronage. It has more to do with the local nature of the school than the rank, but the fact that it is a bottom-tier school is a legitimate factor because people who can go to better out of state law schools on their merits usually do, while people who think they can get by because they are a connected local are unworried about how it will be perceived. I have no problem making that assumption, although I would be thrilled to have it rebutted by an exceptional candidate. I have met and worked with many Roger Williams students and graduates and, while there are a tight handful of star students in every single class that goes through there, far more of them are of the "my dad will get me a job" or "they have to take me, I'm local" mentality. I'm sorry, but anyone who attends there has a presumption to overcome. This is the simple well-known nature of the legal field regardless of what you think of my "elitism" (which is pretty mild overall) and everyone who is applying to a given law school knows what they are signing up for. If we were in MA or NY we wouldn't even be having this discussion it would be so obvious, which is precisely the point I am trying to make about RI. There is a reason why thousands of people are willing to pay 100k to attend tier 1 schools each year instead of just going to local schools on full scholarship, and it is precisely what we are discussing now.

All that being said, I am FAR more concerned with Wallin's policies and ideas than his academic background, and to say that they are misguided and naive would be the understatement of this election cycle.

Posted by: Dan at May 27, 2010 12:56 PM

Any respectable sociologist would argue that all you've done in your last comment is make a convincing case that elite law schools are a club that you have to buy your way into which offer career advancement advantages (that are further enhanced by the strong entanglement between the legal profession and government). It certainly doesn't prove any kind of ethical superiority. But man, are you working hard at protecting the value of your (perceived) club membership.

Posted by: Andrew at May 27, 2010 6:15 PM

If you believe this strongly that law school rankings have no correlation to merit then there is probably nothing I can say to convince you otherwise at this point, and I am sorry that you are so hostile toward academic achievement. So... the incredibly successful large law firms are irrational by paying attention to them... the top government agencies are irrational by paying attention to them... law students are irrational by paying attention to them and sacrificing everything to go to higher ranked schools... it's all a giant classist conspiracy and the only rational person left in the entire world is you. Fine, because none of this has anything to do with any of the actual issues I brought up, so thank you for obfuscating the public debate.

Getting back on topic...

Do you agree with Wallin that there are "sexual predators lurking in our alleyways" in light of the well-known and reported facts that most sexual assaults occur between family members or close acquaintances and sex crimes have one of the lowest recidivism rates of all crimes? Do you think that was an appropriate and responsible public announcement on his part, demonstrating level-headedness and good leadership skills?

Do you agree with him that simple marijuana possession should be criminal and people incarcerated over it at taxpayer expense, and why? Do you think treatment has a useful place in drug enforcement more generally, or do you agree with Wallin that cracking down harder will solve the drug problem?

Do you agree with me that the hiring practices could be positively changed through the implementation of an honors program (for law students from any school) like other AG's offices have, and the retirement of the office's nonsensical and protectionist "Rhode Island bar only" requirement that discourages people from other states from applying?

But the most important question... "ARE YOU READY RHODE ISLAND? ARE YOU READY?"

Posted by: Dan at May 27, 2010 10:58 PM

I'm not hostile to academic achievement, but I seriously question whether you have an understanding of its value, since you are consistently unable to separate achievement from credentials (especially in characterizing my views) and because the only explanation you have to offer for going to a top-tier law school is that it's a good club to join for advancing a career (especially because the government might hire you; you really made more sense when you used to be a libertarian).

You started this part of the thread off with your supposition that tier-greater-than-1 law school graduates won't try to surround themselves with the best people, like tier-1 law-school graduates will. Don't blame me for the less-than-direct route you've chosen to try to defend it.

Posted by: Andrew at May 27, 2010 11:42 PM

"I'm not hostile to academic achievement, but I seriously question whether you have an understanding of its value, since you are consistently unable to separate achievement from credentials"

I've identified the source of confusion. In law, credentials correspond very closely with achievement. This is not true in other fields.

Posted by: Dan at May 28, 2010 12:06 AM
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