- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis said Wednesday he is investigating whether a registered lobbyist broke disclosure laws, after a story by The Associated Press revealed he loaned money to former House Speaker Gordon Fox.

A candidate for secretary of state, Nellie Gorbea, asked Mollis earlier in the day to probe whether Ray Rickman, a former deputy secretary of state, violated laws that require such loans to be reported.

Mollis said in a statement he had already begun looking into the matter. If it is found that Rickman failed to file the appropriate reports with the secretary of state’s office, he said, “I will take all necessary action so that Mr. Rickman complies with the law.”

Fox, a Democrat from Providence, has been under scrutiny since March, when federal authorities raided his home and Statehouse office, prompting his resignation as speaker. The U.S. attorney’s office has still not said who or what it is investigating.

The AP first reported last week that Rickman loaned Fox money in 2009, when Fox was majority leader. He became speaker in 2010. Fox first reported it last week in filings with the state ethics commission. Neither Rickman nor Fox has said how much the still-outstanding loan was for, although the ethics filings said it was more than $1,000.

John Marion, the executive director of the good government group Common Cause, said this week it’s especially notable that Rickman did not report the loan because he is a former deputy secretary of state. The office enforces lobbying laws.

Gorbea is also a former deputy secretary of state. In the letter to Mollis, she said violations of the lobbying law “need to be addressed swiftly if we are to restore the faith of Rhode Islanders in our government.”

Rickman did not immediately return messages seeking comment. He has said previously that he acted as a mentor to Fox since Fox was 20 years old, and that he used to loan Fox money to ride the bus to school.

Fox and his lawyers have not commented on the loan.

The secretary of state’s office says the law requires lobbyists to disclose any loan of over $250 to a “major decision maker.” Rickman’s filings show he didn’t disclose the loan during any of the years he was a registered lobbyist: 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In his work as a lobbyist, Rickman has represented entities including insurance services and agencies that provide support services for developmental disabilities and mental health counseling.

Fox appointed Rickman in 2011 to the commission that recommended new district lines for Congress and the state Legislature.

Mollis, a Democrat, is running for lieutenant governor. Gorbea faces Democrat Guillaume de Ramel in the September primary.