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RI POLITICS

R.I. state senators Morgan and Paolino must pay fines for campaign finance violations

And the Rhode Island Board of Elections refers a case involving former House candidate Daryl Gould to the attorney general after he fails to file campaign finance reports for six years

Sign at the Rhode Island Board of Elections headquarters in Johnston, R.I.Edward Fitzpatrick

PROVIDENCE — Two state senators face fines for campaign finance violations, and a former House of Representatives candidate faces possible prosecution for failing to file campaign finance reports over six years, the state Board of Elections announced Monday.

Senator Elaine J. Morgan, a Hopkinton Republican, will be fined $1,200 for using campaign funds for personal expenses on five occasions, and for failing to provide details about campaign contributions and expenditures, an audit shows.

For example, Morgan reported $4,200 in contributions as “aggregate” when the name, address, and place of employment for each contributor should have been report, the audit said.

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On Tuesday, a Board of Elections spokesman provided details about the five occasions when Morgan used her campaign account for personal use:

  • In January and February 2020, Morgan spent $1,227 from her campaign account for personal use, including a $500 cash withdrawal; $584 in expenses for food, beverages, and meals; and $142 in miscellaneous expenses.
  • In April 2020, she used her campaign account to pay for $73 in groceries from Aldi.
  • In April 2021, she used her campaign account to pay $320 at a Chelo’s restaurant.
  • In February 2022, she used her campaign account to pay $108 for “grooming expense” at V Nails and Spa By Han.
  • In February 2022, she used her campaign account to pay $875 to Patriot Coins.

Morgan has reimbursed the campaign account for all the funds expended for personal use, board spokesman Christopher Hunter said. And her campaign reports have been amended to properly report contributions and expenditures, the board said.

Morgan issued a statement, saying, “First and most importantly, I take full responsibility for the mistakes that I made in my 2021-2022 campaign finance filings.”

She said she was nominated to receive an award at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida and “lumped the total expense of travel into aggregate.” She said she did not break down all of the expenses separately. as she should have, and corrected it as soon as she was cited.

“I did not do anything in a deliberate attempt to deceive the public,” Morgan said. “While it is not an excuse or deflection, when my husband died in April 2021, I realized I not only lost my best friend and confidante but also the one person who was most organized in my life.”

She said she has been in elected office now for eight years and always complied with campaign finance laws.

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“The outstanding issues with the Board of Elections have been adjusted to their satisfaction and I will pay a fine,” Morgan said. “I now have all the controls in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

Senator Thomas Paolino, a Lincoln Republican, will be fined $2,500 for failing to report a $10,000 loan repayment, and failing to report 10 campaign expenditures, according to the audit.

Paolino also reported a $354 campaign expenditure to one vendor when the money actually went to five vendors — none of which included the vendor named in the report, the audit found.

Paolino authorized the Board of Elections to amend his campaign finance reports for complete and accurate reporting, and he agreed to submit documentation supporting his reports.

Paolino issued a statement, saying, “The changes to the campaign finance reports have been resolved and accepted to the satisfaction of the Board of Elections.”

During a meeting Monday, the Board of Elections voted unanimously to accept the audit reports and consent orders for Morgan and Paolino.

The board also voted unanimously to refer a case involving Daryl W. Gould, a former Libertarian candidate for the House, to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution.

Gould ran for the House District 67 seat in 2016 and 2018, and he ran for the Warren School Committee in 2020. He has failed to file 27 campaign finance reports, and he now owes $57,872 in late filing penalties, according to a Board of Elections document.

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In 2016, Gould lost to Representative Jason Knight, a Barrington Democrat, receiving 26.4 percent of the vote to Knight’s 57.6 percent. In 2018, he lost to Knight again, receiving 24.8 percent of the vote to Knight’s 74.4 percent.

The board emailed Gould the findings of an audit in November 2021 but received no response. The board held a “show cause” hearing in April 2022 but he did not show up. So the board voted to hold him in contempt and impose a $1,000 fine.

The board also voted to impose a fine of $50 per day for 45 days, but held off until May 20 “as long as Gould fully cooperated and complied with his campaign finance filing requirements.” But again he did not comply.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.