According to a Journal review of the amended campaign-finance reports that state Rep. Kenneth Marshall filed with the R.I. Board of Elections on July 2, he did not report $11,150 of the contributions he received during the first quarter of this year from a long list of State House lobbyists and others pushing bills at the State House including, for example, auto-body shop owners.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The disclosure by state Rep. Kenneth Marshall of thousands of dollars in previously unreported campaign contributions has shed new light on the high-ranking state lawmaker's decision not to seek reelection to his legislative seat. 

A Bristol Democrat, Marshall stunned legislative colleagues when he announced on June 27, on the last day of the candidate-declaration period, that he was not seeking reelection to the House District 68 seat he has had since 2013. As a senior deputy majority leader — and first vice chairman of the House Finance Committee — he is a member of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s leadership team.

According to a Journal review of the amended campaign-finance reports that Marshall filed with the R.I. Board of Elections on July 2, he did not report $11,150 of the contributions he received during the first quarter of this year from a long list of State House lobbyists and others pushing bills at the State House including, for example, auto-body shop owners.

The original report he filed for that January 1-through-March 31 period reflected zero contributions, despite the well-attended fundraiser he held at the Renaissance Hotel on March 1. Marshall told The Journal he simply did not make it to the bank to deliver the checks until weeks after he received them. He also neglected to report an earlier $500 donation, and that required a series of corrections from one reporting period to the next over the course of a year.

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Marshall acknowledged that these were not his only accounting errors.

He acknowledged having charged a personal trip to the Delray Sands Resort in Highland Beach, Fla. in February to his campaign account, as alleged in a complaint that Nathan Carpenter, state coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America, filed against him with the state Board of Elections on June 20. 

Marshall said he has two green credit cards that look virtually identical. He paid the Florida hotel bill with the wrong one and as soon as it came to his attention, he said, he called the Board of Elections to ask how to remedy the situation. He said his next campaign-finance filing — for the quarter that ended on June 30 — will show that he wrote a personal check to his campaign account to cover the $956.36 he paid the Florida hotel.

Carpenter, in his complaint, also sought an investigation of the more than $15,000 Marshal spent on food, drink and cigars since he was elected in November 2012. That included: $456.65 in March 2018 at the Public Kitchen and Bar, in Providence (which Marshall explained as a fundraising expense).  

Marshall said other allegations about his expenses — such as the gas and meals he charged to his campaign account on his way to and from Quebec — are off base. He said that trip brought him to a legislative conference. 

But the complaint triggered an audit by the Board of Elections campaign-finance division. 

Marshall said it also made it look as if he was engaged in "nefarious'' activities, when his only sin was not being sufficiently attentive to details, like driving up from Bristol where he lives — or Middletown where he works — to deposit checks at the campaign bank account he opened in Barrington because the bank advertised Sunday hours.   

By the end of June, Marshall was also facing an aggressive Democratic primary challenge from progressive activist Laufton Ascencao — a leader in the “Resist Hate RI” network founded in response to Donald Trump’s 2016 election as president.  Bristol Town Councilman Andrew T. Tyska is also running as a Democrat.

Marshall said "fundraisers are a necessary evil of politics,'' but a politician needs a "CPA to handle these campaign accounts. It's not something an average individual can really grasp,'' and the difficulty would make anyone holding public office "skittish about their reputations being tarnished."

This was not Marshall's first run of trouble with campaign finance reports. In 2016 Marshall was also fined $500 by the board for misreporting 25 contributions totaling $5,525.

Marshall, then in his second term, said that as a new representative, he found some of the reporting requirements difficult to navigate.