Corruption Claims in R.I. Senate Race

The Associated Press
Friday, October 27, 2006; 11:12 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Four years after a public corruption investigation brought down Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci and other officials, the issue has resurfaced in a contentious Senate race.

On Friday, former U.S. Attorney Margaret Curran _ credited with convictions in the investigation code-named "Operation Plunder Dome" _ endorsed Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee over Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse.

Chafee has accused Whitehouse of not doing enough to root out corruption, claiming he did not successfully prosecute a single public official during his eight years as U.S. attorney and attorney general. Chafee held a news conference this week to display a photo of Whitehouse and Cianci together.

Cianci, 64, is serving a 64-month sentence for racketeering conspiracy and is due to get out next year. Prosecutors had cast him as the head of an administration plagued by corruption.

Whitehouse counters that he launched an investigation that was the precursor to Plunder Dome, dubbed "Operation Crocodile Smile," when he was U.S. attorney, a job he held from 1994 to 1998 before serving four years as attorney general.

Curran said it's no surprise Plunder Dome has become a political football.

"It's natural that a case as significant as that would continue to generate media interest, that someone might decide it's relevant," she said at a news conference with Chafee to announce her endorsement.

Although Chafee often clashes with fellow Republicans and did not vote for President Bush in the last election, Whitehouse has spent most of his campaign talking about problems with the Republican Party. It's a message Whitehouse hopes will resonate in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than three to one, and in a year when Democrats hope to gain a majority in the Senate.

Curran did not criticize Whitehouse, once her boss at the U.S. attorney's office, and made a point to say she was not campaigning against him.

© 2006 The Associated Press