[Update: the Rhode Island Sierra Club issued a statement: ““This past November The Rhode Island Chapter of Sierra Club discovered an apparent misappropriation of funds by a volunteer official, Laufton Ascencao, and promptly removed him from any role with the Chapter. This activity was immediately reported to the national organization and the Club began an internal investigation. We are continuing to gather information and coordinate with our attorneys and Rhode Island state authorities about our tentative findings.”]
The Providence Journal reports that, “After conducting an audit of his campaign, the state Board of Elections Thursday found Laufton Ascencao, a winning 2018 General Assembly candidate who resigned before taking office, and who was Sierra Club chapter treasurer, spent $13,900 of the environmental group’s money on political causes, according to a report released Thursday.”
$9,300 went to Ascencao’s campaign for House District 68, which he won, before evidence of mailer fraud was discovered and he stepped aside before taking office. $4,600 went to rent and expenses for the Rhode Island Working Families Party.
“We learned tonight that Laufton Ascencao’s deception went further than we initially thought,” said June Speakman, Democratic Candidate for House District 68. Speakman is one of the two Warren City Councilors who uncovered Ascencao’s mailer fraud and she is running to replace him as the Representative from District 68 in a special election. “When the local Warren Democratic candidates discovered that the mailer and invoice that he had shown us in November were fake, we immediately filed a complaint with the Board of Elections; it’s clear that we made the right decision. Campaign Finance misuse and fraud have been a problem for far too many Rhode Island politicians — even in the East Bay. We must demand more from political candidates and our elected officials to avoid these scandals that cause turmoil in our communities and distrust in our government.”
Another candidate in the race is Kenneth Marshall, the incumbent. Marshall is a former Democrat and has himself been found to have mishandled campaign funds to the tune of around $14,000.