House Speaker Gordon Fox yesterday sent a check for $648 to Tazza Caffe cover the cost of food and drinks for a 2007 fundraiser at the Peerless Lofts. Tazza’s owner, Michael Corso, is the lawyer and tax broker who was part of a 2010 meeting paving the way for 38 Studios to come to Rhode Island.
Fox and his spokesman, Larry Berman, say the check was written five years after the event because of what they call an oversight. (The story was first reported by GoLocalProv’s Dan McGowan).
In his letter to Tazza, Fox writes:
When it was brought to my attention in recent weeks that the food and beverages were not listed on my Campaign Finance report, I immediately requested an invoice to pay the appropriate amount.
However, I am aware that you were unable to find an official invoice for this event. To be in compliance with Campaign Finance regulations, I am enclosing a check to cover the expenses. I am basing this amount on approximately 30 people who attended and a menu which included shrimp, cheese and crackers, grapes, and beer and wine. As there was limited food, I have estimated the cost to be $20.00 per person, in addition to 8% sales tax.
Fox’s legislative opponent, Mark Binder, plans to stage a news conference at 10 am Thursday (at the “38 Studios building, 1 Empire Plaza”) to call for an investigation of what Binder calls an “illegal campaign contribution.”
Berman says it’s not correct to characterize Fox’s initial failure to report the cost of the food and drinks as even a violation. Via e-mail, he adds:
If you go to the Board of Elections website and check the Campaign Finance manual, Rule 6.4c states that if campaign information is incomplete or incorrect, the filer can amend the report at any time. There is no deadline or penalty mentioned.
In an interview, Berman says the host committee for the 2007 fundraiser, which included Corso and former state rep Ray Rickman, indicated it had taken care of providing the food and drinks.
It was pointed out to Fox years later, Berman says, that the cost of the refreshments hadn’t been reported in Fox’s campaign finance filings. “It probably should have been reported as an in-kind contribution” Berman says.
Berman says Fox’s Q3 report will include an amended filing reflecting the payment made this week in connection with the 2007 fundraiser.