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 line,” Providence College political science professor Adam Myers said of Mattiello’s campaign operation in 2016. “But the question is whether the public’s opinion of Rhode Island politics is already so jaded that coverage of the trial won’t change any minds.”

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If it’s possible for the most powerful politician in the state to be an underdog in his own backyard, hindsight suggests that’s where Mattiello – the man whose rock-solid support within the Rhode Island House of Representatives gives him almost dictatorial power over any piece of legislation – was sitting four years ago.

House District 15 includes fewer than 11,000 registered voters, the majority of whom are unaffiliated but are considered far more conservative than residents of the rest of Cranston and almost every other city in the state. Mattiello frequently draws criticism from more liberal members of his party, but his political values – pro-business, pro-life, pro-National Rifle Association – are largely in line with the voters who have sent him back to the State House every two years since 2007.

But in 2016, simply being a conservative Democrat wasn’t going to be enough to guarantee Mattiello a victory. Cranston’s Republican Mayor, Allan W. Fung,

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Both parties prepare for possibility of contested election as chaotic White House race hurtles to a close

She has also directed some of her members to be ready if GOP legislatures in states with narrow margins or unfinished counts seek to appoint their own electors, a situation Democrats hope to head off with an obscure law from the 19th century that allows Congress to intervene.

The internal talks are among a number of strategy sessions taking place in political and legal circles in anticipation of a post-Election Day fight. The campaigns of President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden are preparing for all scenarios, each amassing robust legal teams to prepare for post-Nov. 3 disputes, in addition to monitoring Election Day activity and ballot counting.

An uncharted battle over who the next president will be, after a campaign that has roiled and exhausted Americans, could severely test the nation’s faith in its election system — and undermine the principle that the president should be selected by voters rather than Congress or the courts, experts said.

“These are all terrible scenarios to contemplate,” said Richard H. Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at New York University. “Nothing is more explosive in a democratic system than a disputed election for the chief executive, because so much turns on who holds that office.”

Campaign operatives, election lawyers and constitutional scholars say there are several scenarios that could push the outcome of the White House race to Congress for the fourth time in history — or to the Supreme Court, as happened in the contested 2000 election.

While most agree such possibilities are slim, Trump has heightened concerns — and preparations — by repeatedly refusing to commit to conceding if he loses, while declaring that he wants the courts to play a role in deciding the race.

During the first presidential debate last week, the president repeated his unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud, adding that he wants the Supreme Court “to look at the ballots.”

“If it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent on board,” Trump said. “But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”

Many legal and voting rights experts who have been studying the arcane rules that would govern a contested election say they are less worried about Trump refusing to concede if he loses decisively than they are about a complicated delay over disputed ballots.

Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said she fears that there will be “no limits to the political hardball” and “no things that are off the table when people are trying to translate votes into political victories.”

“I wonder what that’s going to leave us with, if we don’t have any shared-upon norms, when there’s not a basic understanding that winning at all costs is not good for us,” Pérez said during a virtual panel discussion last week.

Biden’s continued strength in national and battleground-state polls has heartened Democrats, who are hopeful that he will win

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Why Colorful, Chaotic Home Decor Might Actually Bring You Peace

I have a memory from when I was young—five or six—and I asked my mom what her favorite color was. “Green,” she said. “Because I like trees and being outside.” It hadn’t occurred to my baby brain that there had to be any specific reason for something to be your favorite. I suppose it’s not so different when you’re an adult—you learn that there is almost always a why, even if you can’t quite make sense of it in the moment. Why do we gravitate to some bright rooms more than others? Why does that bright pillow make you feel some kind of way?

The “color-in-context theory,” conceived by psychologists Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier in 2012, muses that “the physical and psychological context in which color is perceived is thought to influence its meaning and, accordingly, responses to it.” How we understand color, they argue, is not so much about aesthetics but about the associations we hold—certain colors mean certain things to us, relying on our previous experiences and interpretations to inform how we feel about them in the future. I would argue that this is how design operates as a whole. Good design is all about context.

Bright colors and kooky silhouettes have always sparked design joy for me—and as far as Instagram is concerned, I’m not alone. Brands like Aelfie, Abigail Bell Vintage, Dusen Dusen Home, and Coming Soon are just a few purveyors of the uniquely chaotic feel-good design I’m talking about. Almost the opposite of the “Tyranny of Terrazzo” or millennial minimalism—this wave of furniture that’s somehow graphically retro and bizarrely futuristic, pattern-clashing that would make your grandmother gasp, color combos that force you to wince before you eventually think they’re edgy. It’s as if the inspiring, soul-soothing parts of the internet were a tangible room you could hang out in.

Despite how chaotic it may be to have a rug that clashes with the coffee table that clashes with the art on the walls, decor that is full of life somehow brings me peace. As Color of the Year becomes Colors of the Year, and color-blocked rooms begin popping up in stylish spaces around the world, it is a helpful reminder to choose what moves you. “My color philosophy is extremely personal,” Justina Blakeney told Clever editor Nora Taylor in a recent episode of AD Visits. “For me, it really is about your own connection to that color and your own color associations.” Color helps to create a reality that thrills you and helps remind you who you are at your core, even on the days when it’s hard to remember.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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Interior design tricks that brought calm to a chaotic open floor plan

Marta and Scott Dragos built their Winchester home with an open floor plan. Not just because that’s how today’s families live, but because Scott, a former NFL player, is a pretty big guy. “We eliminated walls so my husband wouldn’t feel like he was living in a dollhouse,” Marta says.

However, with three young children and a puppy, the first floor felt chaotic. Everyone congregated in the great room, and the television was often left on during meals at the adjacent dining table. Meanwhile the formal living room sat empty, and never mind the mess in the playroom, which was the first thing people saw when they walked in. “The synergies of the rooms were off and not suited to our life,” Marta says.

Enter Liza Kugeler and Laura Ogden of Realm Interiors, who reconfigured and redecorated. Not only did they bring order to the home, they incorporated Marta’s stylish aesthetic in a way that works for an active family. All without undertaking renovations. “Open floor plans can be overwhelming with their multipurpose natures,” Ogden says. “Our goal was to define each space while also connecting them using low-impact modifications.”

The designers started by reassessing what the family needed from each room. They completely reassigned some spaces, while simply tweaking the furniture layout in others. For example, moving the dining table out of the bay window into the center of the great room did wonders. It now anchors the open floor plan and divides the kitchen from the living area. Plus, there’s a clear circulation path around the Scandinavian-style table commissioned from furniture maker Saltwoods, and a new vignette in the bay window. The results are far-reaching, as it’s also a worthy focal point from the entry. “We love the dance between the light wood and pops of black,” Kugeler says.

Reworking the tiny, indistinct kitchen island solved multiple issues, too. Kugeler and Ogden replaced the white marble top with a slab of leathered black granite in a much larger size, adding legs for support, and painting the base in Farrow & Ball Pigeon. The island now makes a statement and serves as a more comfortable place to eat. They also updated the cabinetry with matte black knobs and pulls, put in fashion-forward lighting, and detailed the hood with oak trim.

The most significant change was swapping the living and family rooms. The living space on the other side of the dining table from the kitchen had become the default spot for pretty much everything. Out went the TV along with facing sofas, which made the room much too conducive to comings and goings and also blocked the sliders to the yard. The designers lined the walls with a neutral grass-cloth covering for texture and warmth (the treatment continues into the entry, tying the spaces together), and reoriented the furniture to invite conversation. “The kids can run through and use it — the sofa and chairs are upholstered in family-friendly fabrics — but it’s cozy,” Kugeler says. “You feel embraced.”

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