There is nothing all that unusual about Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch's now well-publicized travels to New Orleans, San Francisco, and other far-flung locales. Just the networking and fundraising forays of a pol gearing up for a gubernatorial run.
But a little obstinance on his part, combined with some persistent reporting and clever maneuvering by a rival, have made a mildly unpleasant story something more.
It all started, as these things often do, with Providence Journal political reporter Katherine Gregg, who has made a career of collecting government documents and asking insistent questions about them.
In recent months, Gregg compiled records on the Attorney General's wanderings of the last year-and-a-half and demanded details.
Lynch's office provided information where required, laying out the particulars on state-sponsored forays. But he declined to shed light on campaign-financed travels described in the most general terms in his campaign filings.
Lynch, as his spokesman pointed out, was not required to disclose more than he did in those filings. But his refusal to do so, if legally sound, led to some political problems.
Gregg gave his rebuff a prominent position in her July 8 piece. And what could have been a slightly uncomfortable, one-day story about the Attorney General's travels to nifty spots beyond the reach of voters stung by the recession got some legs.
When Lynch's rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, General Treasurer Frank T. Caprio, opened up the books on his travel records, he buttressed a carefully constructed reputation for transparency and made the Attorney General look worse.
Then, the state GOP got in the act — filing a campaign finance complaint against Lynch, focused on his travel, that landed on the front page of the ProJo.
This is not the first story to get away from Lynch in his nascent campaign for the state's top office.
Not so long ago, he suggested that his brother William Lynch, chairman of the state Democratic Party and prospective candidate for the AG's post he is soon to vacant, would probably not run for the top law enforcement job. Two Lynches on the ballot might not go over with voters, you see.
That pronouncement did not sit too well with the sibling, it turns out — setting up a story line bound to nip at the heels of both campaigns should the brothers Lynch move forward with their plans.
Of course, it is early yet. Caprio is bound to face some bad news of his own. And Lynch has plenty of time to recover from any missteps. Indeed, the pugnacious quality that got him into trouble here — give no quarter to the press, or even to your own brother — could be his greatest strength going forward.
Lynch battles. And for a state in trouble, a fighter may have some appeal. But he'll have to be careful that he doesn't hit himself too much along the way.