The Amount Of Drinking On Smith Hill Is Hard To Pin Down

Mar 9, 2017

A state representative’s account of drinking by lawmakers at the Statehouse is attracting media attention beyond Rhode Island. But it’s not easy to pin down the actual amount of drinking on Smith Hill.

Providence State Rep. Moira Walsh has offered conflicting accounts of how much drinking takes place at the Statehouse. But head of the good government group Common Cause of Rhode Island, John Marion, said he’s more concerned about the frequency of fundraisers staged by lawmakers at bars and restaurants away from the capitol.

“We see those fundraisers as an opportunity where those with money, particularly lobbyists, are mingling with legislators, particularly right at the end of the legislative session when they seem to have a second round of these fundraisers at the point that all the decisions are made,” said Marion.

Some former lawmakers say a culture of drinking is associated with the General Assembly, in part due to the frequent fundraisers. But no evidence has surfaced of legislators being intoxicated during legislative debates.

Spokesmen for top legislative leaders have not responded to a request for comment for this story.