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Fung Death Incident Not Alone in Politics

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is among the few American politicians to seek high office with an accidental death in their past. So few, in fact, that he's almost alone.

When asked for relevant examples to the Fung case, Cook Political Report Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy said "Apart from Ted Kennedy, I can't think of anyone else. No charges/indictment and an expunged record? I'm not sure there is any there, there….."

Adlai Stevenson (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A little digging, however, revealed the "there." To wit:

U.S. political leader and Democratic presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson shot and killed a 16-year-old girl named Ruth Merwin when he was 12. At a family party in his Bloomington, Ill., home, Stevenson was demonstrating a drill technique he learned at the military academy. Holding an old repeating rifle he didn't know was loaded, he accidentally shot the girl in the forehead. After a formal inquest was held the jury declared the incident was an accident. In 1948 Stevenson was elected governor of Illinois.

Bill Janklow (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Bill Janklow, a Republican who holds the record for longest tenure as Governor of South Dakota (16 years), served little more than a year in the United States House of Representatives before resigning in 2004 after being convicted of manslaughter in a car accident. In August of the previous year, Janklow was driving 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone when he ran a stop sign at a rural intersection near Trent, South Dakota. Motorcyclist Randolph E. Scott, 55, struck Janklow's vehicle, was thrown from the bike and died instantly.

POLL: Your Opinion: Fung’s Coming Forward On Accidental Death Now?

"I don’t think the two cases are comparable to Allan Fung’s situation," said Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institution.

"The Janklow case had him stepping down because it was a contemporary case involving a legal conviction. Fung’s case was many years ago and there were no legal charges filed against him. The Stevenson case is an accidental shooting, not a car accident."

Better known in these parts is the Chappaquiddick incident that occurred on July 18, 1969. Mary Jo Kopechne, a passenger of the late U.S. Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, was killed when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island. Kennedy survived and left the scene, but Kopechne died in the vehicle. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a two-month suspended jail sentence.

Fung, a Candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor, admitted over the weekend that he was responsible for a 1989 traffic accident that killed a man. Fung later had the record expunged, leaving no public record of the arrest or charge. He said the case went to a grand jury and he was not indicted. According to Amy Kempe of the Attorney General's office, this is common. Any individual – convicted of a crime or not – may petition the court to have the record expunged.


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Fung Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

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10) Can Fung raise the money necessary to be competitive?

At the last reporting period, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's campaign had only $336,000.


Ken Block had $540,000 and he just entered the race.  


Democrat Gina Raimondo has over $2.3 million and even Angel Taveras has $759,000 cash on hand.

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9) Is Fung ready for prime time?

Fung is well-liked in Cranston and most everyone thinks Fung is a "nice guy."


Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras can claim they took on tough issues.


Ken Block articulates big ideas and a proven record in business, but out of the gate Fung's campaign seems less than ready.


Fung's campaign manager got confused about how many Democrats Fung has  donated to and his motivation for donating to them. 


Would another four years in Cranston be the wiser path?

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8) Can Fung effectively run against Angel Taveras?

Fung claims Providence Mayor Angel Taveras as a close friend, but it raises questions about inherent personal conflicts and ability to run and effective race.


Politics in Rhode Island is often a blood sport, will Fung approve that knockout punch TV spot in the closing weeks that tags Taveras for the spiraling crime problem in Providence?

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7) Is Fung's base big enough?

For Mayor Fung, his base is Cranston, but he does not enjoy a groundswell of Hispanic voters like Providence Mayor Angel Taveras hopes to bank on (7% of the voters were Hispanic in the General Election in 2012, according to Pew Research).


A race against Raimondo would be tough as she would very likely have a strong block of female voters.


Where does Fung get his votes?

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6) Can Fung defend the tax increases in Cranston?

When Fung runs as a Republican against a Democrat, there is an advantage if Fung can point out a differentiation of fiscal discipline. Fung, as Mayor, had numerous and significant residential and commercial tax increases.


This will not help him against the fiscally prudent Ken Block, but even if he were to win the primary then he would lose the advantage against Angel Taveras in a General Election. Both have ushered large tax increases through their councils.

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5) Why pledge to create "20,000 jobs"? It sounds like Don Carcieri.

Don't know if Fung was paying attention, but GOP Governor Don Carcieri ran on...creating 20,000 new jobs. 


When Carcieri left office, Rhode Island had the worst unemployment in America. Not sure Fung wants to mirror that Carcieri pledge.

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4) Defending Don Carcieri and making him a part of the campaign - is that a good idea?

The collapse of 38 Studios has scarred Don Carcieri's legacy as Governor of Rhode Island. At best, Carcieri was star struck to give a baseball player $75 million -- at worse, Carcieri was part of something far more ominous.


For Fung, who wants to run as the future of Rhode Island, why be associated with Don Carcieri?

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3) Defending the lobbyist role?

In 2014, do we think Rhode Islanders will be looking for a former lobbyist for a large corporation that is cutting Rhode Islander's jobs to be our next Governor?


Lobbyist-turned-Governor will be tougher to pull off than actor Ronald Reagan-turned-Governor of California in the 1960's.

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2) Understand the changing position on gay marriage?

Hard to know what Allan Fung's position is on gay marriage. At different times he offered a range of views.


Some GOP primary voters have been opposed to the RI law and others were supportive, but neither segment of the GOP may understand what his position was -- or is.  

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1) Political donations to local, federal and national Democrats - are you sure you are a Republican?

Fung has given to David Cicilline, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, former RI Senate President Bill Irons and once RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch. Fung's campaign manager claims he was a lobbyist and needed to donate to Democratic leaders.  Cicilline, Reid and Lynch meet none of those criteria.  


Not only did Fung give thousands of his own dollars to Dems, he turned down requests from leading GOP candidates like John Robitalle and Jon Loughlin who were badly outspent and needed every dollar to win.


The Republican party in Rhode Island is a pretty small group trying to create a pretty big tent - from Scott Avedisian to Doreen Costa. For most Republicans in this state it is tough -- you don't enjoy the political connections and you're part of a tiny minority -- so loyalty matters.


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Putting Ted Kennedy’s photo and story adjacent to that of Mr Fung provides a stark contrast.

The two situations couldn’t be more different. On the one hand you have a filandering alcoholic who left a young woman in his car dead until he could sober up and get advice from his handlers. Then his cronies were able to arrange for him to get away with murder.

In the case of Mr. Fung, he was driving in the morning. He wasn’t drunk. He passed out. He didn’t leave the scene of the accident. This unfortunate event was a tragedy resulting in the death of a man changing a tire. But the police on the scene could clearly see that there was no wrong doing and no charges were pressed against Mr. Fung.

Both stories are very sad but one makes me angry as well.

Comment #1 by James Berling on 2014 01 14

This is a tragic situation for anyone to go through so I choose not to judge anyone on the accident. But what is alarming to me is the fact that the mayor used David Cicilline's father as an attorney. Jack Cicilline represented Raymond Patriarca, who controlled organized crime in New England for years. He was known as the mob lawyer.

Comment #2 by Marie Dawn Christie on 2014 01 14

If Mr Fung were a Democrat,this faux scandal would be national news for the righties at Fox News, Libaugh, Glenda Beck, Drudge etc. And the loony Tea-Party birthers would be demanding his original birth certificate, NOT a photo copy..LOL

Sammy in Arizona

Remember 1983, Reagan disarmed the Marines while ordering them into Beirut, 241 Marines died needlessly

Comment #3 by Sammy Arizona on 2014 01 14

Ted should have gone to jail. Shame on anyone for protecting that guy.

Fung stood for an indictment, because the grand jury declined to indict.

Something else which this story neglected to mention -- he shared this tragedy with ProJo when he ran for Cranston city council. The paper declined to publish it.

As for Stevenson, he was twelve years old, and the death was in every sense a tragic mistake.

Comment #4 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 01 15

Something just doesn't add up with Fungs story. It was 9 in the morning. How many times have you driven up 95 and fell asleep (his words to the police officer that responded to the accident) at 9 in the morning? Ok, so lets say he did fall asleep even though now he calls it, "blacking out"... Statistically, what are the chances you fall asleep just as one vehicle is off the road and you hit it? With 30 miles of rt 95, how many cars were in the breakdown lane at 9am and the one or two that were in 30 miles, you find it and hit it? I suspect he never fell asleep and was distracted by something and then hit the poor man. His parents were well known in the area and owned a popular restaurant. They knew people.. Dig harder on this one and I suspect you will get to the real story. This guy is not being honest. He knows the true story. Yeah it was an accident and I don't believe his intent was to harm. Nonetheless, he was probably negligent and should have been charged with vehicular homicide. Instead, he walks away with nothing and goes on the be the golden boy.. Nope, I aint buying it.

Comment #5 by Bob McCay on 2014 01 15

Fung did the right thing to bring it out in the open and early in the campaign season. It was a tragic accident and there will always be those that have other ideas of what happened but the facts speak for themselves.
You know his Donkey competitors would try to use anything to get to him and twist the facts to their agenda.
Smart move, just the kind of guy we need in the Governors chair.

Comment #6 by Gary Arnold on 2014 01 15

If Fat Ted were a Republican, the entire left wing media establishment would have descended upon him like a hoard of jackals. Instead, it being Massachusetts an all, he gets two months suspended for what should have been manslaughter. "We'll cross THAT bridge when we come to it, Mary Joe". And the lefty barking seals want to drag FOX News into it???????

Comment #7 by G Godot on 2014 01 15

David Cicilline invited a classmate, Robert Davidson,to his home in Prov.when he was about 10.
The classmate was killed when a piano fell on him while the 2 were playing.
The family suddenly moved to Narragansett shortly after.
So the story goes.

Comment #8 by mark malachi on 2014 01 20

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.