US Attorney Robert Clark Corrente predictably demurred when asked during a taping this week of WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers about the widening national controversy involving the White House and eight of his fellow federal prosecutors. Not for Nothing, but Corrente, who confirmed his candidacy as a possible replacement for US District Court Judge Ernest Torres, knows how to choose his words carefully.
No big surprise then that the prosecutor was sparse in offering an update on Operation Dollar Bill, the federal probe of State House influence-peddling. Corrente nonetheless makes for a good interview, and the program will be broadcast Sunday at 5:30 AM on Channel 12 and at 10 AM on Fox 64.
While one of his prosecutors previously indicated that seven politicians and an equal number of private sector entities are under scrutiny, Corrente says that this does not amount to 14 separate investigations. When I asked him about the gap of about a year between the indictment of former Roger Williams Medical Center honcho Bob Uricuoli and that of former CVS officials Carlos Ortiz and Jack Kramer, Corrente likened Operation Dollar Bill to a duck gliding on the surface of a pond; it might seem serene on the surface, he said, with a lot of furious paddling going on underneath.
Corrente also said he thinks Rhode Island's ethical climate has improved over the last 10 or 20 years, and that greater public outage about corruption would improve things further. Asked about how Buddy Cianci epitomizes the love-hate relationship that many Rhode Islanders have with wrongdoing and scoundrels, the prosecutor acknowledged Cianci's singular personality while expressing hope that the imprisoned former mayor might be a bit chastened when he returns to Rhode Island later this year.