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Sunday, February 19, 2023

Earth-shaking news or Nothingburger?

An end to Blake Filippi’s career-ending lawsuit

By Will Collette

Last Friday, the news media carried an announcement that due to Speaker of the RI House Joe Shekarchi’s decision to reactive the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), Charlestown’s former state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi would drop his lawsuit against General Assembly leaders.

Shekarchi actually told the Democratic caucus he would reactivate the JCLS in 2020 but, on the advice of House lawyers, he held off due to pending litigation, which we’ll discuss below.

This Joint Committee was supposed to be a mechanism for Senate and House leaders of both parties to get together and make big decisions about the operations of the General Assembly.  

On paper, this is an important committee. In reality, it’s just another committee. Three years ago, Filippi was in a feud with then House Speaker Nick Mattiello. Mattiello didn’t think much of the JCLS and simply didn’t convene it, making decisions himself that otherwise would be sent to the JCLS.

Flip needed an issue to frame his feud with Mattiello as one of good versus evil, liberator versus tyrant. He decided the JCLS was the ticket so, in addition to a relentless effort to stir up public outrage, he filed a lawsuit.

Well, the JCLS thing never really got a lot of traction. As Filippi’s own lawsuit noted, the JCLS had not met in over a decade – and apparently no one except Flip noticed. Or cared.

Make no mistake – Mattiello was a tyrant and was broadly despised by critics left and right. But as some pundits put it, the JCLS is such an “inside baseball” issue that it’s really not an issue at all. Quick: without referring back to paragraph one, what’s the JCLS’ full name?

Is there anyone who follows politics in the state of Rhode Island who was shocked to hear that Mattiello made all the decisions? 

In the run-up to the 2022 election, Blake “Flip” Filippi made the surprise announcement that he was not going to run for re-election. Flip had a relatively safe seat, thanks to a lot of campaigning for him by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA), plus he was the leader of the House Republicans.

But he gave it all up, saying that he needed to focus all of his attention on his JCLS lawsuit.

WTF? Over the past 8 years, if there’s one thing Charlestown has learned about Blake “Flip” Filippi is that he needs to be in the public spotlight all the time. Sure, Flip got a lot of coverage after making this announcement until Tina Spears’ landslide election to replace him. But after that, not so much.

I cannot believe that Flip gave up a job that gave him what he craves most – power and attention – to work on a piddling lawsuit about an agency no one’s heard about, or cares.

Filippi tweeted:

I’m thrilled Leader Chippendale and Speaker Shekarchi have agreed to regular meetings of the JCLS – which was the goal of the lawsuit I filed in 2000. With their agreement in place, I’m more happy [sic] to dismiss my lawsuit, and look forward to the first JCLS meeting in over 10-years.

Except that Flip got his dates wrong. He filed his lawsuit in 2020, not 20 years earlier, and had to refile it in 2021 because his first suit was dismissed.

I still can’t believe Filippi didn’t run for re-election for this stupid lawsuit. If you have any theories or better, proof of why Filippi didn’t run for re-election, please e-mail Progressive Charlestown. 

In a lot of ways, Filippi reminds me of former Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey who was a thing for a few years in the early 2000s when he seemed like a dangerous rising star in conservative Republican politics. After being mayor for four years, he made challenged Lincoln Chafee in the 2006 Republican Senate primary.

Laffey lost, as did Chafee in the General election to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Like Filippi, Laffey went into cattle ranching after moving to Colorado. He kept his hand in, though, running for the US House in 2014. Laffey came in last among four candidates vying for the Republican nomination.

Like Filippi, Laffey is a raging narcissist with a casual relationship with the truth, wacky conservative politics but a certain amount of charm that appeals to some segments of the electorate. Despite his cattle ranch, you could say Steve Laffey is all hat, no cow.

But you can’t keep a good narcissist down. Laffey has just declared that he is now running for the Republican nomination for President in 2024. Despite reports in the news media that Nikki Haley is the first declared challenger to Donald Trump, Laffey actually beat her by a couple weeks. But then, no one outside Rhode Island ever heard of him or takes him seriously.

Maybe Filippi will also throw his cowboy hat into the Presidential ring too.