Email shows governor’s aide pushed EDC staff on 38 Studios
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A top aide to former Gov. Don Carcieri pushed Economic Development Corp. staffers to call in to radio shows to sell the deal with ex-Red Sox player Curt Schilling’s video game company amid harsh public criticism, closing an email with the line “In Schilling we trust!”
A 2010 email chain by former Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe is among tens of thousands of documents released last week in the lawsuit over the $75 million deal with Schilling’s 38 Studios, which failed in 2012 after the company relocated from Massachusetts to Rhode Island and went bankrupt. Kempe now works as spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who is criminally investigating the deal, which left taxpayers on the hook to repay bonds that had been issued to fund the move.
The emails were sent July 27, 2010, the day after the deal was approved, to EDC Executive Director Keith Stokes, EDC spokeswoman Melissa Chambers and EDC official Fred Hashway. Carcieri staffers Jamia McDonald and Andrew Hodgkin were copied on the chain.
In them, Kempe says she spoke to Carcieri that morning.
“He wants to make sure the EDC, and Keith in particular, is out there in the media today to explain the deal with 38 Studios and defend against the many uninformed and outlandish claims made by pundits and political candidates,” Kempe wrote.
She goes on to say that the governor does not want to appear he is getting into the middle of political campaigns, but that he does not want statements and accusations to go without comment from the EDC. She then tells them to monitor talk radio and to call in to “set the record straight.”
After hearing back from Stokes that he had been on two shows and planned appearances on two more, Kempe replied that the governor was “fired up” after hearing criticism about the deal from Jeremy Kapstein, a senior adviser for baseball projects at the Red Sox and at the time a candidate for lieutenant governor. Kapstein and others had raised questions about the decision to dedicate such a large amount of money to a company with an unproven track record.
Kempe also referred to then-gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee, who that morning questioned the trust state officials had placed in Schilling, and dredged up a discredited idea that Schilling faked the bloody sock that became his signature moment in baseball.
“Chafee just sounded like a fool. A fool who just lost the Red Sox Nation vote. In Schilling we trust!” Kempe wrote.
The Associated Press asked Kempe on Tuesday and Wednesday for comment from her and Kilmartin about her role in pushing the deal and her current role in the attorney general’s office as it investigates it. She said Wednesday afternoon that she had to speak first to Kilmartin about it.
Kilmartin said Tuesday that he would not recuse himself from the criminal investigation. He was serving in the General Assembly in 2010 and voted to approve legislation that allowed the deal to happen.
When asked about the emails in a 2014 deposition, Kempe repeatedly said she could not recall the emails and could not recall whether Carcieri was supportive of the deal, a transcript shows.
John Marion, executive director of the good government group Common Cause, said Kempe’s email shows that minor celebrity played a role in the enthusiasm for the 38 Studios deal. He said Kempe is a high-ranking aide to Kilmartin now and reported directly to Carcieri when the 38 Studios deal was being struck.
“When a senior member of the staff of the attorney general has been shown to be part of the effort to sell the 38 Studios deal to the public, it raises legitimate questions about whether Peter Kilmartin will be able to make an independent judgment free from the increasingly apparent ties to 38 Studios,” Marion said.