The Rhode Island Statehouse is full of drunk legislators doing shots inside the capitol, newly elected Providence Democratic Rep. Moira Walsh alleged this week.
Walsh, a self-proclaimed teetotaler, was a guest on WPRO News Talk 99.7 radio when she mentioned the abundance of alcohol and frequency of drinking by elected officials within the Statehouse, where she says legislators keep filing cabinets full of alcohol.
“I am probably gonna get in a lot of trouble for saying this but the drinking, it is the drinking that blows my mind. You cannot operate a motor vehicle when you’ve had two beers, but you can make laws that affect people’s lives forever when you’re half in the bag?” she said. “That’s outrageous.”
When asked to clarify if lawmakers are drinking during session Walsh demurred, though she did say they took shots together on the floor on at least one occasion.
“Dude they put shots on our desk for the Dominican Republic day and we all just did shots on the floor,” she offered.
House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi told The Providence Journal that he has never seen the behavior Walsh described in his five years as a representative and noted that floor sessions and many committee meetings are taped for the public to watch. With the media present, Shekarchi believes if they saw something amiss they would have reported it.
The radio show host Matt Allen defended Walsh against criticism on his show the following day.
“I am shocked by how many people I’ve heard from, like on Facebook, have said ya know ‘She’s nuts.’ That’s not true. I am telling you I’ve seen it,” Walsh said. “I’ve seen the booze up there… I mean guys you have got understand something sphincter muscles are like snare drums right now over this, tight as a snare drum.”
He went on to include multiple clips from local news stations reporting on Walsh’s interview.
“I have no idea where she could have gotten this from. I have been here for 11 years and I have never been in the presence of legislators who are falling down inebriated. It’s just disheartening. Its clearly again an inexperienced legislature who really doesn’t understand. And I forgive her for that” Representative Patricia Serpa told ABC Channel 6.
NBC 10 spoke to another lawmaker off-camera who appeared to confirm Walsh’s allegations. She said the drinking was so prevalent “several years ago” that she brought her concerns to House Speaker Nick Mattiello, but said the problem had been “significantly curtailed” since then.
Walsh later clarified her comments, saying she was not asserting House members are drinking during hearings or before votes. Rather, she claims, she was referring to the frequent fundraiser cocktail parties held during the year.
The Rhode Island lawmakers are not the only legislature accused of drinking on the job, though the practice is becoming less prevalent. In California, citing a pattern of drunken-driving arrests, the legislature began supplying free after-hours transportation to lawmakers. The practice was discontinued in 2015 in an effort to regain the public’s trust. In Idaho and Oklahoma, lawmakers are not permitted to drink on the job.
Walsh declined to comment on who was the heaviest drinker or who drinks more between the House and the Senate.
“Collectively our BAC is probably 90-proof at this point” joked Walsh. “I’m going to be the person who ruined drinking at the State House. They’ll love me forever.”
Walsh, who campaigned on raising the minimum wage, made headlines last month when she was fired from the restaurant where she had worked for eight years, ostensibly for being too political at work.