|222nd Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives|
February 11, 2010 – March 22, 2014
|Preceded by||William J. Murphy|
|Succeeded by||Nicholas Mattiello|
|Member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives
from the 4th (5th prior to 2003) district
January 5, 1993 – January 2015
|Preceded by||K. Nicholas Tsiongas|
|Succeeded by||J. Aaron Regunberg|
|Born||Gordon Dennis Fox
December 21, 1961
|Spouse(s)||Marcus LaFond (2013–present)|
|Residence||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Alma mater||Providence College,
Rhode Island College,
Northeastern University School of Law
Gordon Dennis Fox (born 1961) is an American politician from Providence, Rhode Island and formerly the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. A Democrat, he was first elected to the legislature in 1992 and was elected speaker on February 11, 2010. Fox resigned from the Speakership on March 22, 2014 following an FBI raid on his state office and home. On March 3, 2015, it was announced that Fox had agreed to plead guilty to three criminal charges in U.S. District Court.
Early life and career
One of six siblings, Fox is the son of an Irish-American father, a jewelry polisher, and a Cape Verdean mother, who worked as a maid and later at a golf ball factory. His parents met while his father was stopped in Providence while he was returning to Boston after his service in the Korean War ended. The family lived for a time in a Providence apartment with a view of the Statehouse. Fox's father died when he was eighteen.
Fox graduated from Classical High School in Providence. He attended Providence College but had to drop out after a year when his father died. He continued his studies at Rhode Island College, where he earned a degree in history and political science. He then graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, paying his way by working at a Carvel ice cream shop. He became an attorney.
Fox unsuccessfully ran for the Providence City Council in the mid-1980s. He then worked on the campaigns of state representative Ray Rickman and state representative-turned-United Sttates Representative Patrick J. Kennedy.
Rhode Island House of Representatives
Fox was first elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in November 1992. He represented the 4th district, which included parts of the East Side of Providence, namely the Mount Hope, Summit and Blackstone neighborhoods.
In 1993, Fox backed John B. Harwood over the more liberal Russell Bramley for Speaker. He stated that he supported Harwood because he was a departure from the previous House leadership and because he was supported by Fox's mentor, George Caruolo.
On March 30, 2004, Fox came out publicly at a rally in support of same-sex marriage at the State House. At the time he came out, Fox was the only openly gay member of the Rhode Island General Assembly.
During his tenure in the House, Fox worked to pass legislation that created a statewide smoking ban, historic tax credit program, affordable housing fund, mental health parity law, and protections for victims of domestic violence. In 2004 he sponsored a Lobbyist Disclosure Law drafted by Common Cause. The following year he sponsored legislation that would have weakened the same law.
As soon as William J. Murphy indicated his intention to retire from the speakership, Fox expressed interest in the position. In October 2009, Murphy endorsed Fox in the race to succeed him. Fox faced conservative Democrat Gregory Schadone and Republican Robert A. Watson in the election held on February 11, 2010. Fox received 51 votes to Schadone's 14 and Watson's 5. He became the state's first African-American and first gay Speaker of the House. He was the first openly gay house speaker in the United States, although Assemblyman John Pérez (D–Los Angeles) was elected to the speakership of the California State Assembly several weeks before Fox. Pérez, however, was not sworn in as speaker until March 1, 2010, whereas Fox took office almost three weeks earlier on February 11.
During Fox's tenure as speaker, the General Assembly voted to legalize same-sex marriage and overhauled the state's pension law, which dramatically reduced its unfunded pension liability. The Assembly also voted to grant 38 Studios, a video-game company owned by Curt Schilling, a $75-million loan that they later defaulted on.
Providence Board of Licenses
In 2001, Mayor Buddy Cianci appointed Fox to the Providence Board of Licenses. In 2006 he was appointed vice-chairman of the board. Fox resigned from the Board of Licenses in December 2009.
In 2004, Fox was fined $10,000 by the state Ethics Commission for voting in favor of granting GTECH Corporation, a company his law firm represented, an exclusive, 20-year, $770 million contract with the Rhode Island Lottery.
During Fox's 2010 run for Speaker, Fox was criticized by his opponents for co-owning a bar with a Alex Tomasso, a Providence nightclub owner, while serving on the Providence Board of Licenses, which Tomasso frequently appeared before. Fox and Tomasso's Sandbar & Grill operated in Warwick, Rhode Island from 2006 to 2008. During its run it was frequently visited by police and cited for after-hours drinking, noise complaints, having an underage person present, having a fake entertainment license on the wall, and staging live entertainment without a license. In August 2006 the bar's liquor license was suspended for 90 days by the Warwick Board of Public Safety. The suspension was reduced to 30 days by the state liquor authority in March 2007. Fox recused himself during major votes before the Board of Licenses involving Tomasso, but occasionally voted on smaller issues. Fox was also criticized for voting on issues involving Fatty McGee's, a bar he represented.
Following the collapse of 38 Studios, Fox was criticized for misleading lawmakers by not making clear that $75 million dollars of a $125-million economic development loan-guarantee program were earmarked for the company. He was also criticized for his close, personal connection to Michael Corso, a consultant for 38 Studios. The collapse of 38 Studios caused Fox faced a tough reelection fight in 2012 against independent Mark Binder. Fox defeated Binder 3,328 votes to 2,472.
In January 2014, Fox was fined $1,500 by the state Ethics Commission for violating a state law that requires public officials to file financial disclosures when they do for public agencies. Fox failed to report the almost $43,000 he earned from preparing loan documents for Providence's economic development agency.
Resignation and guilty plea
On March 21, 2014, Fox's home and office were searched by U.S. Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and state police. Fox resigned as Speaker the next day. He remained a member of the house, but did not run for reelection.
On March 3, 2015, Fox plead guilty to wire fraud, bribery and filing a false tax return. Fox admitted to using $108,000 from his campaign account for personal expenses, accepting a $52,000 bribe to push for the issuance of a liquor license for a Providence restaurant in his role as a member of the Board of Licenses, and failing to declare these illegal sources income on his tax returns.
Fox has been in a relationship with Marcus LaFond, a hair stylist, since 1998. Fox and LaFond married on November 12, 2013 in Fox's state house office. The ceremony was officiated by William Guglietta, the Chief Magistrate of the Rhode Island Traffic Court and Fox's former legal counsel, and witnessed by friend and state Health & Human Services Secretary Steven M. Costantino.
- Bakst, M. Charles (April 1, 2004). "Gordon Fox: Power of a personal story". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- "Gordon Fox elected first openly gay RI House speaker". Associated Press (Boston Herald). February 11, 2010. Retrieved February 12, 2010.
- "Investigators search home, office of House Speaker Gordon D. Fox". Providence Journal. March 21, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "Gordon Fox resigns as House speaker day after investigators raid home, office". Providence Journal. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "Gay RI House Speaker Takes Heat for Marriage Vote", The Associated Press, May 18, 2011
- "How high can Gordon Fox go?". Providence Phoenix. 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- "How to come out as a gay politician". Providence Journal. 2007-09-03. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- Parker, Paul Edward (March 22, 2014). "Fox broke barriers, has faced scrutiny". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Bakst, M. Charles (October 14, 2001). "New man in power: Gordon Fox, House Finance chairman". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- "Biography, Rep. Gordon D. Fox". Rhode Island House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- Anderson, Liz (April 3, 2004). "Announcement that he's gay draws support for Rep. Fox". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- "Murphy set to retire as R.I. House speaker". Providence Journal. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- Gregg, Katherine; Peoples, Steve (February 12, 2010). "Fox is House speaker". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Davis, Karen A. "Mayor's diversity efforts get mixed reviews". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Stanton, Mike (January 31, 2010). "For Fox, a dual role". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Gregg, Katherine (October 1, 2003). "Fox dismisses any impropriety in work for GTECH". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Bakst, M. Charles (January 25, 2004). "Fox fined, ethics debate grows". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- "Update: Rhode Island House speaker resigns amid probe". Reuters. 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
- Niedowski, Erika (March 22, 2014). "Gordon Fox Resigning From Rhode Island House Speaker Post After Raid". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
- "Former Rhode Island House Speaker and Providence Licensing Board Vice Chairman Gordon Fox to Plead Guilty in Federal Court to Wire Fraud, Bribery, and Tax Evasion". FBI. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
- Gregg, Katherine (November 13, 2013). "Fox weds his longtime partner". The Providence Journal (Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin).
- Rhode Island House - Representative Gordon D. Fox official RI House website
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Follow the Money - Gordon D. Fox