The Rhode Island State Police have joined the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office in investigating potential lobbying violations by a political insider who represented 38 Studios prior to receiving its $75 million loan guarantee from the state.
A Target 12 investigation revealed earlier in the week that Michael Corso, an associate of former House Speaker Gordon Fox, signed a $300,000 contract with 38 Studios in 2011 to lobby government officials to approve the loan deal. When asked about it earlier in the week Secretary of State Ralph Mollis said that Corso never registered as a lobbyist in the state. Shortly after that Mollis announced that he planned to launch an investigation into the matter.
Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said the AG's office contacted State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell on Tuesday about the matter and asked urged him to reach out to the Secretary of State's office.
Colonel Steven O’Donnell said he spoke with Deputy Attorney General Gerald Coyne, then called Mollis to offer to help in the probe by providing investigators.
"After talking with him [O’Donnell] we both agreed it would be helpful to the investigation if we had a law enforcement agency involved because we don’t have investigators on staff," Mollis said. "It would be helpful if state police would be able to assist us or work with us or guide as to how letters should be sent and how we get information."
Mollis and O’Donnell are meeting today to lay out a game plan for the 38 Studios investigation.
O’Donnell said that he did not know at this point if this will all lead to some kind of criminal investigation. If it does, he'll pursue it.
Fines for lobbying violations in Rhode Island can reach as high as $2,000 per violation, in addition to the possibility of criminal charges being pursued by the attorney general’s office.