New law redirects campaign fund restitution
STATE HOUSE – Candidates who embezzle their campaign funds will no longer be able to pay their restitution to their own campaign accounts under a new law sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Leonela Felix.
Their legislation (2021-S 0193, 2021-H 6454), which was passed by the General Assembly July 1 and recently signed into law by the governor, instead directs the restitution to be deposited into the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program Fund, which assists crime victims with expenses related to putting their lives back together after a violent crime.
“Abusing campaign funds is a crime against all those who put their trust and their own money toward helping a candidate with their election. Allowing the perpetrator to pay his or her own campaign back is restitution only in the technical sense, and doesn’t serve as a deterrent. Sending those funds the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Fund instead is better way to prevent the money from going back into the perpetrator’s control, while also serving to benefit victims. This is a more appropriate and constructive consequence for a serious crime,” said Chairwoman Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).
Said Representative Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), “We need greater transparency and accountability at all levels of our public systems. Our democracy will not work if the public cannot trust elected officials to act ethically and responsibly. This legislation finally closes a loophole that allowed individuals who violated that trust to avoid the real consequences of their crime. Real restitution involves repairing our community, and that is what this important legislation is designed to do. We cannot tolerate elected officials who threaten the public’s trust.”