“This is a matter of great concern, and I want to assure the people of Rhode Island that this Office will stand behind the the Board of Elections in its review and investigation of election and campaign finance law violations,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.
A Statewide Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Jeffrey Britt with one felony count of money laundering and one misdemeanor count of making a prohibited campaign contribution – specifically, making a campaign contribution but disguising it as a contribution from someone else.
The charges are in connection with Britt’s actions on behalf on Rhode Island Speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s 2016 re-election campaign and were announced by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha at a press conference.
“Rhode Island’s election laws exist for a reason: to ensure transparency in our elections,” said Neronha. “They exist to ensure that the public knows the true source of funds used to support political candidates. They exist to ensure that the public can judge the motivation underlying support for a candidate. In short, they exist to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
As alleged in the Indictment, in 2016, the Republican primary for House seat occupied by Speaker Mattiello involved two candidate, Steven Frias and Shawna Lawton. Steven Frias defeated Shawna Lawton and was subsequently defeated by Speaker Mattiello in the General Election. After the Republican primary, in October of 2016, Britt met twice with Lawton to discuss the possibility that she support Speaker Mattiello’s campaign in the general election. Specifically, as alleged in the Indictment, Britt discussed with Lawton distributing a mailer endorsing Speaker Mattiello as well as funding for the mailer.
Subsequently, as alleged in the Indictment, Britt approached a person described in the Indictment as Donor 1 and requested that Donor 1 contribute $1,000 to Ms Lawton’s campaign. Britt delivered $1,000 in cash to Donor 1 for this purpose. As alleged in the Indictment, Donor 1 deposited $1000 in cash into his personal checking account and shortly thereafter wrote a $1000 check from that account to the campaign of Lawton.
Lawton deposited Donor 1’s $1000 check into her campaign account, along with another $1000 check delivered to her by Britt. Lawton then provided Mr. Britt with a check drawn on her campaign account for $2150, which was used to pay for the mailer.
Attorney General Neronha said he does not expect to bring charges against anyone else in relation the the case, and would not comment on why charges were not brought against Lawton or Donor 1.
Neronha did comment on the Board of Election‘s investigation, which he said was excellent, but that many of those involved with this alleged crime treated without seriousness.
“This is a matter of great concern, and I want to assure the people of Rhode Island that this Office will stand behind the the Board of Elections in its review and investigation of election and campaign finance law violations,” said Neronha. “Simply ignoring the Board’s attempts to gain information, without legally justifiable grounds, will send a strong indication to this Office that the full investigatory weight of this Office should be utilized.”
Neronha stopped short of saying the Board of Elections should be granted greater investigative powers to compel cooperation in future investigations.
Patti Doyle, spokesperson for the Mattiello Campaign, issued the following statement:
“These proceedings do not involve the Speaker. The Board of Elections resolved this issue for the campaign approximately one year ago.”
Britt is scheduled to be arraigned in Kent County Superior Court on November 1, 2019. Britt is facing 20 years on the money laundering charge and one year for the misdemeanor.
Update: From the indomitable Kathy Gregg at the ProJo:
Law firm representing Jeff Britt has issued this statement on his behalf says he was "used by the Mattiello campaign as a fall guy": pic.twitter.com/jzDKiiaCLj— katherine gregg (@kathyprojo) October 18, 2019
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