A chaotic campaign helped save Rhode Island’s House speaker in 2016. Now it threatens to end his political career

“I used to joke with people, ‘Are you sure you want to be seen with me? Because the speaker could be watching.’” Frias recalled in an interview last week.

Turns out, even that was true.

Last week’s criminal trial of former Mattiello campaign consultant Jeffrey T. Britt was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $1,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witness after witness detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Frias.

Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a semi-retired private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by a veteran operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race.

In the end, Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a razor-thin margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.

Now, with early voting scheduled to begin Wednesday, Mattiello’s back is against the wall again as he faces a serious challenge from Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, the Republican wife of Cranston’s popular mayor, who is eager to capitalize on the seedy details that came out during last week’s trial.

But Mattiello, who was never charged, testified that he knew nothing about the controversial mailer until it hit mailboxes in his district, and a key campaign aide described the mailer as “Jeff Britt’s project.”

The judge has said he won’t issue a ruling for five to seven weeks. So that means voters will render their decision first, in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I think it clearly crossed a

Armie Hammer helped build a motel, Alyson Hannigan is using old props as Halloween decor, and more

Armie Hammer wearing a suit and tie: Armie Hammer.

© Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI
Armie Hammer.


Fresh off a quarantine in Cayman Islands and a divorce, Armie Hammer didn’t know how to pass the time during the pandemic aside from sitting at home “picking boogers and seeing how far I could flick them,” he said during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (for which he wore a spacesuit complete with sandals and half a pedicure). When his friend asked him to live in and work construction on an abandoned motel, Hammer lived up to his name and said yes. He describes himself as “moderately handy” and spent two months sanding floors, moving objects, and replacing drywall. The motel is called the Ramsey at 29 Palms, though The Motel that Armie Hammer Built may attract more enthusiastic visitors. [People]


It’s safe to say vampires will be steering clear of Alyson Hannigan’s home this Halloween. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress revealed she has a ton of props from the show, and brings them out of storage each year to decorate her home for Halloween. Hannigan has tombstones from the Buffy graveyard set up in a “real spooky” display, along with the skeletons from the Master’s lair, which “look really authentic.” However, they are understandably falling apart, as any 20-year-old skeleton would. No word yet on what Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Halloween decor consists of, but she must have some slayer’s stakes lying around somewhere. [Entertainment Weekly]


Can you handle this? Kelly Rowland announced her pregnancy, appearing on the November cover of Women’s Health flaunting her bump. Rowland and husband Tim Weatherspoon, who share a 5-year-old son, had been talking about expanding their family, and decided to try when the pandemic hit. The singer was hesitant to announce the good news, but wanted