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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gemma “Bombshell” is a dud

Anthony Gemma on his way to announce …
unsubstantiated allegations. (Photo by Bob Plain)
After all that hype, there was nothing particularly game-changing about Anthony Gemma’s announcement that he found some people willing to accuse his political opponent of voter fraud. There wasn’t even anything substantiated.
I would imagine most candidates could dig up similar accusations regardless of whom their opposition is. The difference is most know not to stake their entire candidacy on unsubstantiated allegations. Gemma, though, seemingly doesn’t even realize he’s doing that! Either that or he doesn’t mind blatantly lying to the people’s faces.

“I’ll close my remarks today by answering before it’s asked what I suspect will be your first question,” he said according to a transcript of his remarks. “In my opinion, have I presented today smoking gun evidence that David Cicilline has committed criminal acts relating to voter fraud? My answer, based upon the results to date of the ongoing TPS investigation is a resound yes.”
His smoking gun? He presented what he called “sworn testimony” from five individuals. By sworn testimony what he meant was something someone told a lawyer. I’m pretty certain in most people’s minds telling a lawyer something, even under oath, is a far cry from a smoking gun.
Gemma said he has known about the allegations since 2010, but was unable to come up with a coherent reason for why he waited two years to disclose them. Keep in mind, the primary between he and Cicilline is 20 days away.
Gemma also said this wasn’t about his campaign but was about protecting the process. But again, he was unable to come up with a coherent reason why he didn’t respect the wishes of law enforcement and wait until the investigation played out – as he admitted they asked him to do. Again, remember, 20 days until the primary.
And despite defying authorities, he had the nerve to say, “I am obliged by conscience to protect the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations being conducted and/or contemplated by federal and state law enforcement authorities.”
What? He didn’t respect the integrity of anything! Not any potential criminal investigation and certainly not the electoral process.  Did you pick up on the word “contemplated” in that statement. Not even Gemma will confirm that an investigation is ongoing.
Even his fellow Democrats – though there is hardly any more evidence that Gemma is a Democrat than there is that he has uncovered any real evidence of actual voter fraud – are imploring him to give up the gamesmanship.
“In short, Mr. Gemma’s approach to this matter has been highly irresponsible,” said Edwin Pacheco, head of the state Democrats. “This race is too important. I am calling on Mr. Gemma to return to the issues and put the theatrics aside. In his own words, he has stated that law enforcement authorities have asked him not to discuss this matter. Instead, for his own political gain, Mr. Gemma is attempting to tear down Congressman Cicilline by linking him to these accusations.  A link he was unable to make. As an attorney, Mr. Gemma should know it is highly irresponsible to cast unsubstantiated accusations without providing supporting documentation. The voters of Rhode Island deserve more than campaign antics, they deserve solutions to the real problems they are facing every day.”
In short, the only way Gemmapalooza will change the game is that he probably lost whatever shred of credibility he has left.
All this isn’t to say that nothing will come of Gemma’s broad accusations, and I very much look forward to following all the fallout from today’s events. But nothing that happened today would indicate it will be tied to David Cicilline, and everything indicates that Gemma is a rogue actor and loose cannon who should never be elected to so much as a neighborhood association, never mind Congress.
Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.