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Lobbyist members of the RI Democratic State Committee vote in the interests of their clients, not the party



The Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee held a vote Monday night to adopt new bylaws that were created and rushed through an approval process for the purpose of limiting the efforts, speech and finances of the Women’s Caucus. Many people in the room voted for the bylaws, perhaps because they believed it was the right thing to do, but many more who voted for the new bylaws did so because it was in their economic self-interest.

By my count, at least 13 members of the State Committee are lobbyists registered with the Secretary of State‘s office. All ten of the lobbyists who were present voted for the new bylaws. Whether they agreed with the bylaws or not, these lobbyists couldn’t have sensibly voted otherwise: They are representing legislation during the next session of the General Assembly, and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello has a long history of retaliatiing against those who oppose him.

The four lobbyists who didn’t attend the meeting were registered as no shows. How they would have voted had they attended is anyone’s guess, but by not attending, they at least didn’t directly oppose the Speaker. This is the equivalent of legislators “taking a walk” during key votes in either house of the General Assembly. Rather than vote their conscience and oppose the Speaker or the Senate President, some legislators are strategically absent.

From the point of view of party leadership, lobbyist members are perfect. They will vote the way leadership wants, and in exchange, maybe minimum wage doesn’t go up next session, as the Rhode Island Hospitality Association wants, or maybe payday loans aren’t reformed, as Axcess Financial desires.

The presence of lobbyists at the State Committee meetings can also had a heightened sense of frisson to the proceedings, as seen here with Stephen Alves:

Can we please ask a favor?

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Standing to the left of Alves in the video in the tweet above is fellow lobbyist and State committeemember Wallace Gernt. To the left of Gernt are Representatives Michael Morin (Democrat, District 49, Woonsocket) and William O’Brien (Democrat, District 54, North Providence). In the video it appears that Alves is referring to members of the Women’s Caucus as grunting pigs.

Here’s a list of lobbyists who are also members of the Rhode Island State Democratic Committee:

State Committee 3rd Vice Chair Lisa Tomasso is a lobbyist for the Hospital Association of Rhode Island and is paid $44.23 an hour for her work.

District 4 Committeeman Wallace Gernt is a lobbyist and the President of the Bradford Group. His company lobbies for the following:

  • Thomas C Slater Compassion Center Inc $5,000.00 monthly
  • Schnitzer Steel $1,500.00 monthly
  • Rhode Island Student Loan Authority $75.00 hourly
  • South County Hospital $3,000.00 monthly
  • Providence Community Health Centers $2,000.00 monthly
  • Blackstone Valley Community Health Care $1,000.00 monthly
  • DSW $3,000.00 monthly
  • Housing Network of Rhode Island $1,000.00 monthly
  • Horizon Healthcare Partners $1,500.00 monthly

District 19 Committeeman Jack Hutson is a lobbyist for New England Association Services LLC. His company is paid by the following companies:

  • Northeast Pharmacy Services Corp $13,000.00 annually
  • Rhode Island Pharmacists Association $3,000.00 annually

District 22 Committeewoman Sarah Bratko is a lobbyist paid $3000 monthly by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, which fights every legislative session against raising the minimum wage.

District 26 Committeeman Stephen Alves is a lobbyist working for Capital Strategies Group. His company is paid by the following companies:

  • Visa USA Inc $60,000.00 annually
  • Axcess Financial $40,000.00 annually
  • Rhode Island Library Association $3,000.00 annually
  • The Gold Loan Company $20,000.00 annually
  • Keeping Jobs in Rhode Island $5,000.00 monthly
  • Greenleaf Compassion Care Center $6,000.00 monthly

Alves seems to work on his own for the following companies:

  • Rhode Island Autobody Association $25,000.00 annually
  • Mylan Inc $2,500.00 monthly
  • Care New England $13,000.00 monthly

District 46 Committeeman Derek Silva is paid $1200 a month to lobby for the Providence Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 799.

District 46 Committeewoman Linda B Noble is a lobbyist for JPM & Associates. Her company is paid by the following:

  • Thermostat Recycling Corporation c/o Multistate Associates, Inc $3,300.00 monthly
  • Spurwink/RI $1,250.00 monthly
  • Rhode Island Association of Nurse Anesthetists $10,000.00 annually
  • American Chemistry Council $40,000.00 annually
  • National Utility Contractors Association of Rhode Island $12,500.00 annually
  • Rhode Island Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs $25,000.00 annually
  • Project Goal Inc pro bono
  • Blackstone Valley Tourism Council $1,500.00 annually
  • Pascoag Utility District $7,000.00 annually
  • Transparentbusiness Inc $1.00 annually
  • South County Tourism Council $1,000.00 monthly

District 52 Committeeman David M Chenevert pays himself $500 monthly to lobby for his Rhode Island Manufacturing Association. Chenevert was a no show at the State committee meeting.

District 52 Committeewoman Melissa Travis is paid $2500 a month to lobby for Rhode Island Society CPAS.

District 68 Committeeman Erich E Haselhurst is a lobbyist paid $1440 monthly by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and $5000 monthly by IGT and its Affiliates. Hasselhurst was a no show at the State committee meeting.

District 73 Committeeman J Russel Jackson is a lobbyist with Ocean State Capitol Consulting LLC, which is paid by the following companies:

  • Coastal Farms LLC $300.00 hourly
  • Go Orange LLC $300.00 hourly
  • NC2 $300.00 hourly

Jackson was a no show at the State committee meeting.

At Large, CD-2 Matthew Jerzyk is a lobbyist with William A Farrell & Associates LLC, a company paid by the following groups:

  • Bank of America Corporation $4,375.50 monthly
  • DXC Technology Company $54,000.00 annually
  • Uber Technologies Inc $3,500.00 monthly
  • Pfizer Inc $3,000.00 monthly
  • Greenwich Biosciences Inc $3,500.00 monthly
  • Rhode Island Bankers Association $77,000.00 annually
  • Rhode Island Bar Association $27,500.00 annually
  • AT&T Services Inc $5,275.00 monthly
  • Consumer Data Industry Association $25,000.00 annually
  • Brown University $16,000.00 annually
  • Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence $7,500.00 annually
  • Hudson Group $4,000.00 monthly
  • Turningpoint Energy LLC $3,500.00 monthly
  • Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund $10,000.00 monthly
  • Twin River Management Group Inc $5,000.00 monthly

Middletown Town Chair Linda Finn is a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence. She is paid $12,000 annually for her efforts. Finn was a no show at the State committee meeting.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.

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