PROVIDENCE — Remember the way it was when far-flung travel was viewed as a perk of holding public office or, at the very least, a civic responsibility?
A jet-setting Gov. Gina Raimondo bounced from Rhode Island to Miami, San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C. — and Israel.
Lt. Governor Dan McKee and his wife, Susan, returned to the Far East at the expense of the Taiwan government.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio took expense-paid trips to Boca Raton; Nashville; Santa Fe; Charleston, S.C.; Milan, Italy and Berlin, Germany at the expense of the Senate Presidents Forum, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Government Affairs Council. (The tab: $13,844.)
And that was just last year.
Other expense-paid destinations for Rhode Island’s part-time lawmakers in 2019:
Lisbon, Portugal (Sen. Jessica de la Cruz); San Juan, Puerto Rico (Sen. Ana Quezada), Taiwan ( Sen. Sandra Cano); Athens, Greece (Sen. Leonidas Raptakis) and Berlin, Germany (Sen. Hanna Gallo), according to their own financial-disclosure filings with the R.I. Ethics Commission for 2019.
As de la Cruz, a freshman Republican senator from North Smithfield, explained on her filing, the $2,452 cost in euros of her trip to Lisbon was paid by the Luso-American Development Foundation as part of an effort to: “facilitate the connection between Portugal and the Portuguese-descendants living in the United States.”
With a one-month delay in the April filing deadline, ethics disclosure reports were still streaming in last week.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s one expense paid trip out of state trip took him to Washington, D.C. in February 2019, to take part on a panel hosted by the Legislative Leaders Foundation for “new speakers.”
The most frequent-flyer on the House side: Carlos Tobon.
The Pawtucket Democrat listed two pages of expense paid trips that included: Taiwan, Israel and Puerto Rico; Santa Fe; Chicago; Nashville; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Pittsburgh; San Diego; Miami and Washington, D.C.
Among his explanations: “The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) extended a formal invitation to join the 2019 delegation to attend the gift ceremony … [for] 6 dragon boats to the state of Rhode Island and related activities to be held in Taipei, Taiwan from April 13-18, 2019.“
Among the groups paying $26,083 for his travels: the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators; the American Israel Educational Foundation and the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office. It is unclear how many days in total he was out of state.
Raimondo made most of her out-of-state trips as chairwoman last year.of the Democratic Governors Association.
The trip she took to Israel, along with her husband Andrew Moffit, was paid for ($10,507) by the Center for Innovative Policy, a group that at that time shared an address, phone number and top officer with the DGA, but does not disclose donors.
Altogether, the DGA — and its offshoot — paid $17,570 for Raimondo’s airfare, hotels and, on occasion, meals during the first year of her second term. During her time at the helm, the DGA touted a “record-breaking” $43.5-million fundraising haul.
What else can we learn from Raimondo’s most recent financial-disclosure filing?
She netted somewhere between $50,001 and $100,000 in 2019 from her residual stake in Point Judith Capital, the venture capital firm she co-founded and ran before winning public office.
FWIW: the state remains locked — by a majority vote of the other shareholders — in its own 10-year, long-ago expired $5-million commitment to the firm.
Raimondo also listed herself as a board member of the Washington, D.C.-based “Truth Initiative,’’ which describes itself as: ”America’s largest nonprofit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past.“
McKee — who still lists himself as vice president of McKee Brothers Oil — also went far afield.
Hit with a $250 fine by the state Ethics Commission last year for failing to disclose an earlier eight-day, expense paid trip to Taiwan on an annual filing, McKee gave a detailed accounting of his return trip in April 2019.
His latest report shows the Taiwan government paying $6,364 towards airfare, $1,180 for hotel accommodations for McKee and his wife, Susan, and “$400 p/p” for meals.
What was gained from this “Taiwan/China Business RI Economic Ambassadors Business Trip”?
“As a result of the mission, Rhode Island received a donation of 6 Dragon Boats valued at $120,000 from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office for Pawtucket’s Taiwan Day Festival,’’ McKee’s office said.
He also credited the relationships forged on the trip for visits by ”several business owners … to (Rhode Island) to continue exploring investment opportunities,’’ and the “donation of over 200,000 surgical face masks to help Rhode Island during the pandemic.”
According to McKee, the other travelers included: Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, state Sen. Sandra Cano, state Rep. Carlos Tobon, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council President Robert Billington and Blackstone Valley businessmen Louis Yip and Sunny Ng.
Atty. Gen. Peter Neronha’s filing reflects a single expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. in August 2019 for an “Enforcement Working Group Meeting at the US Department of Justice,’’ under the umbrella of the National Association of Attorneys General. ”Transportation/Meals/Lodging: $531.25.“
State Treasure Seth Magaziner’s report reflects two Aspen Rodel Fellowship getaways, one in Aspen and the other in New Orleans. The tally: $2,432.82.
He also went to Washington D.C. ($526.48 ) for a “NewDEAL 9th Annual Leaders Conference.”
The “NewDEAL” describes itself as a a national network of rising state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives.“
Meanwhile in the slowly reopening state of Rhode Island:
Larry Lepore, general manager of the Rhode Island Convention Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, paid up quick after his name appeared publicly last week on a list of the Convention Center’s delinquent customers.
The disclosure came during a Zoom meeting on Tuesday of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority’s finance committee on a list of billings totaling $35,653 that were at least 90 days overdue for payment.
The overdue bills included $27,250 from the “Department of Administration-courts” and $8,403 for the “Lepore wedding.”
In an email exchange on Wednesday, Lepore told The Journal he paid the balance due a day earlier for his daughter’s December 2019 wedding and reception for 125 people at the Convention Center.
He said he paid $20,000 in advance, $10,000 in January and another $7,000 in February, leaving “an outstanding balance [of] $8,400 which I paid yesterday.”
Asked why he was overdue on the payments, he cited bills from vendors. “I knew there was an outstanding balance. I thought it was about 4K. The problem was that there was so many lay-offs in finance it took longer then it should have to get final numbers.”
Asked and answered: “There is Absolutely no employee discount. I paid full rate.”
GOP voters against Trump
Republican Gary Sasse of East Greenwich — a top aide in former GOP Gov. Donald Carcieri’s administration — has a role in a $10-million digital and television advertising campaign by a new national group calling itself: Republican Voters against Trump.
According to The New York Times: “The group created a cache of 100 testimonial videos from voters explaining their decision to break with the party.”
In his turn in front of the camera, Sasse says: “Donald Trump cherishes loyalty, but not loyalty to the United States of America. He cherishes loyalty to Donald Trump.”
Rhode Island’s presidential preference primary is Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joseph Biden shares space on the Democratic ballot with candidates no longer in the race, including U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
President Donald Trump’s name appears with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who exited the race on March 18, and perennial Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente.
A new job
Governor Raimondo’s husband, Andrew Moffit, has a new job as the first “Chief People Officer” for the Boston-based PathAI, which describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of AI-powered technology for the pathology laboratory.”
Announcing Moffit’s hiring last week, company CEO Andrew Beck said: “I can’t think of a better person to join us now as we rapidly grow our team and continue to build our capabilities focused on the goal of improving patient outcomes with AI-powered pathology.”
Moffit worked the last two decades at the McKinsey & Company consulting firm, most recently as “Global Head of Capabilities of McKinsey Accelerate.”
On Twitter: @kathyprojo