Governor’s Office Met With 38 Studios Lobbyist in 2011, 2012

Richard Licht, director of the R.I. Department of Administration for Gov. Lincoln Chafee, said that he met with Michael Corso twice to talk about getting 38 Studios tax credits. Corso is an attorney who signed a $300,000 contract with Curt Schilling's game development company to lobby government officials in the state.

Licht tells WPRI that he met Corso in his office in December of 2011 and somewhere else (he doesn't recall exactly where) in the Spring of 2012. At both meetings Corso pushed hard to get the game development studio tax credits. The December 2011 meeting took place four months before an April 2012 meeting at 38 Studios where Chafee was asked by its executives to sign documents allowing the company to get tax credits and bridge financing. Ultimately 38 Studios ended up going bankrupt.

The acknowledgement by Licht is important because it establishes that Corso was serving as a lobbyist for the studio. Earlier in the week the Rhode Island Secretary of State's office said that Corso never registered within the state as a lobbyist. A day later an investigation was launched.

According to Licht, the December meeting came about after Corso called him to request information about how 38 Studios could take part in the state's tax credits for film and TV productions program. This led to Licht to set up a meeting between himself, Corso and David Sullivan, Rhode Island’s tax administrator, to join them.

"They were trying to see if the film and tax credits would apply to gaming," Licht said. "That’s really what they wanted, to understand it. … That was purely informational."

Licht also said that he never told Gov. Chafee about the meeting the previous December with Corso and other 38 Studios insiders.

Patrick Rogers, who was still Chafee’s chief of staff in December 2011, said Wednesday he was not informed about Licht hosting the 38 Studios meeting either. David Sullivan acknowledged a meeting with Licht, Corso, 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling, and 38 Studios board member Tom Zaccagnino. He describes that meeting as purely informational and general. The topic of discussion was about tax credits and how to apply for them.

Finally, Patrick Rogers said he was approached by former Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. general counsel David Gilden in the fall of 2011. At the time he indicated that 38 Studios might request one or more waivers from the Chafee administration that would allow the company to avoid making some of the payments called for under its original agreement with the state.

Rogers said he informed Chafee about the message from Gilden, and said they were both relieved when Gilden later said the company wouldn’t need the waivers after all. He also said that the idea was presented to him as a sign of 38 Studios’ success, not the company's internal financial turmoil.

"My recollection was that the company was doing well," he said. "This was an indication of the company growing quickly, maybe more quickly than their projections, and that they needed some additional capital."

As for Corso, Rogers said he doesn’t recall ever meeting with him about 38 Studios.

Source: WPRI

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