slides: Does Carcieri’s 38 Studios Legacy Hurt Fung?
Friday, September 13, 2013
Among the fifty plus names on the Republican Mayor's list of supporters was Governor Donald Carcieri, who held office from 2003 to 2011 -- and was instrumental in orchestrating the doomed $75 million 38 Studios deal that is currently the subject of both a lawsuit and a Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation.
"Make no mistake about it, the specter of 38 Studios will be a major talking point by the opposition in both the primary and general election," said Rhode Island College Associate Professor of Communications Val Endress. "Governor Carcieri's support will carry with it the liability of association with 38 Studios."
Others, however, saw the move as a largely symbolic gesture that the former party standard-bearer be included on the list.
"Certainly, it's appropriate for any Republican Governor to get into the mix to endorse a candidate," said URI Professor of Political Science Maureen Moakley. "Fung has publicly disavowed the 38 studios deal. How much can [opponents] tag him on it? As far as Fung is concerned, there's nothing to hang your hat on."
Setting the Stage for a Run
Setting his sights now on higher office, Fung announced Tuesday a 57-person committee, which had Carcieri and former Governor Lincoln Almond atop the list of names of supporters.
"Candidates form exploratory committees for a number of reasons: to announce intent to run, as a legal means to raise more money, and as a tactic to attract media attention," said Endress. "Accepting an invitation to join an exploratory committee is not the same as a formal endorsement, but it does indicate to the public that the committee membership is leaning in that direction."
However, former Chairman and Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican party, Jeffrey Deckman, questioned the use of an exploratory committee -- and whether having the former Governor on it was an asset or a liability
"Generally, exploratory committees are used by people not currently in office or just starting out," said Deckman. "You assemble a group of seasoned political experts to ask things like, "Help me understand the process. Do I stand a chance? What is it I need to do to get a campaign underway?"
"I like Allan but he already knows the challenges of elected office. What if the committee says he shouldn't run?" continued Deckman. "Will he listen to them or make up his own mind? Or is this just way to drum up interest?"
"To me, all of this raises the question as to whether [Fung] is willing to make sacrifices and be a bold reformer, or is he going to have committees make big decisions and join the Good Ol' Boys club," said Deckman.
Fung Opposed to 38 Studios
"The Mayor continues to do his due diligence as it relates to the entire 38 Studios transaction along with our state's obligations. Based upon the information currently available, he is not in favor of making the continuing annual payments of $12.5 million," said Sweeney.
Deckman, however, thought that the deal with ill-fated video game company -- and one of its chief architects in Governor Chafee -- would be a sticking point in the campaign.
"The question of 38 Studios, if I'm Allan's opponent, is going to come up," said Deckman. "His conversation with [Carcieri] should have been, "What did you know and when?," not "Will you join my committee?"
"Having Governor Carcieri on his exploratory committee is a double edged sword for Allan Fung," said Brown University Professor of Political Science Wendy Schiller. "In one way it brings him potential support and statewide recognition among Republicans who remain loyal to the former governor, which can help with fundraising and deterring other challengers like [former candidate John] Robitaille. "
Schiller continued, "But it could be a liability if the state legislature continues its investigation into 38 Studios and it remains in the forefront of the news in Rhode Island because former Governor Carcieri will get drawn into that conversation more and more."
"It will be harder for Fung to maintain his critical position on that deal with Carcieri on his committee," said Schiller.
Inclusion to be Expected?
"Given the sheer number of Mayor Fung's exploratory committee, it would have been conspicuous to leave former Governor Carcieri's name off the list," said Endress. "Ordinarily, most serious candidates would welcome a former governor's involvement, because former office holders have a proven track record for raising money and their list of contributors is invaluable."
"But, in this case, Former Governor Carcieri's involvement at any level in the campaign carries with it liabilities, principally because of public perception of the former Governor's role in the 38 Studios debacle," continued Endress.
Former GOP House Minority Leader Bob Watson, who was opposed to the 38 Studios deal while in office, questioned the former Governor's role as a potential advisor.
"I like Allan, and support him," said Watson. "Where I'm lost though is on the purpose of promoting [Carcieri] on your team. Is Fung going to rely on his political expertise as he governs?"
Of having the former Governor on the exploratory committee, Watson quipped, "[Fung's] damned if he does, damned if he doesn't."
Still, Brown academic Schiller thought that Fung could manage the situation in his favor. "Fung may be able to turn it to his advantage by saying that he has learned from Carcieri's mistake and as governor, he would not enter into any deals resembling the 38 Studio deal. If he can walk that fine line, he can still shore up his position among Republicans in a contested primary."
Carcieri & Schilling
March 6, 2010:
Governor Carcieri meets Curt Schilling at party the former Red Sox pitcher hosted in Medway, MA for a WWII documentary screening.
This is one of the key events that sparked 38 Studios moving to RI.
Note: Curt Schilling's home was previously owned by Patriots' QB Drew Bledsoe.
Carcieri and Legislation
May 19 2010:
At the request of the RI EDC, Representatives Constantino, Melo, and Brien introduce legislation -- after the legislative deadline date -- authorizing $125 million job creation fund.
Carcieri was the Chairman of the RI EDC at the time of the legislative request.
These funds would be used to attract 38 Studios to Rhode Island.
Carcieri Accepts Blame
Former Governor Carcieri accepts responsibility for 38 Studios deal in interview with WPRI.
In a rare appearance after leaving office, Carcieri talks openly about the motivation to bring the gaming company to Rhode Island.
In the past few months, the Chafee administration has aggressively used litigation to seek recovery of millions of dollars.
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