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Taveras + Fung Nearly Tied in State Employee Donations

Thursday, March 06, 2014

 

State employees are pouring tens of thousands of dollars from their own pockets into the race for Governor, with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung hauling in the most, state campaign finance records show.

Fung, a Republican, and Taveras, a Democrat, are nearly tied at approximately $10,000 in individual contributions each. General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, also a Democrat, ranks third with about $8,500 in donations from state employees, which includes rank-and-file workers along with political appointees and management-level employees.

GOP contender Ken Block, a Barrington businessman who formerly ran under the Moderate Party banner, had just one, for $50. The third Democratic candidate, Clay Pell, who announced his run in late January, had no state employee donations listed so far. The first fundraising report that will reflect donations after his formal announcement is not due until the end of this month.

A conflict of interest?

When Taveras was running for mayor in 2010, he made candidate contributions from public employees, particularly those who worked for the city of Providence, an issue in the race. Then-campaign manager Lauren Nocera told GoLocalProv that taking money from city employees raised ethical concerns. “With Providence’s terrible legacy of pay to play and corruption, the voters should stick with the candidate who refuses to play the insiders’ game and raises money from the people—not the special interests. That’s Angel Taveras,” Nocera said.

Yesterday, Taveras’ gubernatorial campaign did not respond to several requests for comment. But political pollster Victor Profughi told GoLocalProv that the “contradiction” between his position in 2010 and now could be used against him by one of his opponents.

So far none of the other candidates in the race have made similar pledges, at least not in the current race for Governor. But one advocate suggested that those who want to prove they will be independent decision-makers should avoid contributions from public employees, especially those at the state level.

“We do think that it raises an ethical question and we do think that it could potentially put any one of the candidates in a compromising position when it comes to their positions on certain issues,” said Lisa Blais, spokeswoman for OSTPA, a taxpayer advocacy organization. “We don’t think that candidates should be taking contributions from employees who work for the state they hope to govern. It is just a direct conflict of interest.”

On the GOP side of the race that will be less of a potential issue for Block than Fung, who had a total of $10,375 in state employee donations, slightly ahead of Taveras, who was at $10,170, according to the records reviewed, which encompassed years prior to 2010 in order to offer a full portrait of their fundraising history of the candidates and capture any previously raised funds that may be applied to the current race. (Fung campaign manager Patrick Sweeney declined comment.)

That Fung has more in state employee contributions came as little surprise to Profughi, however, who said Fung’s bipartisan reputation may have helped him. “It’s hard to separate candidate from party but I think that in Fung’s case he’s really not been a particularly partisan player,” Profughi said, adding that Fung is also a likeable candidate with a “squeaky clean image.”

“I think that translates into contributions,” Profughi said. “I think that’s almost by accident they happen to be government workers too.”

Outside money gotten focus so far

The state employee donations do not reflect the overall fundraising trend in the campaign so far. Raimondo, while ranking third in employee donations, remains in the lead in the money race, with $2.7 million cash on hand at the end of 2013, according to the latest available fundraising figures. Pell and Taveras had roughly $1 million each in their war chests, with most of Pell’s cash coming from a $1 million so far.

Block and Fung both had under $1 million, with about $676,000 and $453,000 in their respective campaign war chests, according to their latest finance report filings.

Fundraising has been a political issue in the race, but so far the focus has been on money from sources outside the state, not inside state government. In late October, Taveras issued a call for Raimondo to agree to limit the influence of outside money from so-called super PACs—an agreement known as the People’s Pledge. Raimondo postponed a decision, saying the field of candidates was not yet finalized. Now, after Pell’s entry, the three Democratic campaigns are reportedly close to an accord on the People’s Pledge.

Although donations from state employees has not been an issue in the Rhode Island gubernatorial race so far, it has come to the fore in at least one other similar race recently. Last month, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Pat Quinn, a Democrat, refused to accept money from an organization headed by a state employee. (The donation was forwarded to a charity, rather than returned.) In explaining the decision, a campaign official said the “campaign doesn’t accept contributions from state employees,” according to an AP report.

A review of Rhode Island campaign finance reports shows that a number of the state employee donations hail from Statehouse or state department insiders. Tom Coderre, the chief of staff for state Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, donated to Raimondo in 2010. Paiva Weed also contributed more recently to Raimondo’s campaign before her formal announcement. Raimondo’s own former chief of staff, Joseph Pratt, is also listed as a contributor in 2012, one year after he was hired by her office.

Fung’s donor rolls also show a number of senior-level state employees. The day after last Christmas he received $25 from Craig Stenning, the director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals. Another management-level donor is Namvar Moghadam, who heads capital projects for the Department of Administration. And the chief of legal services for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Cindy Soccio, also donated to Fung last summer.

The pattern continues for Taveras. Both Paiva Weed and her chief of staff have contributed to his campaign for the most recent election cycle. Also among his state employee contributors are Charles Williams, an administrator at the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals; Marisa White, the personnel director for the state judiciary; and Joseph Abbate, the director for law revision for the Joint Committee on Legislative Services for the General Assembly, according to state payroll records.

 

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Comments:

Who gives a damn? Everyone... and I mean EVERYONE in this state has a close relative on a state payroll or pension... the State of RI and its cities and towns employ close to 50 percent of the population. I think GOLOCAL is shilling for Block... news flash: the guy has no crossover appeal. As for Taveras, go fill a pothole.

Comment #1 by Mike Pastore on 2014 03 06

This article makes me puke how badly GoLocal has been corrupted by the Block campaign.

You're making an issue of a single $25 donation? In this state where the gov't is I think the third largest employer? Would love to follow the $ trail from the Block campaign to the quote political team here at GoLocal.

None of this matters to me. Try to bad mouth him all you want, but Mayor Fung has proven himself for the past 6 years here in Cranston and made my city safer and successful. I'm proud when I drive through my city. And I couldn't be happier to cross parties and pull the lever for him on election day.

Comment #2 by Ron Gonzales on 2014 03 06

Funny how Taveras changes his tune about the donations from state employees. I wouldn't call it a contradiction, I would call it hypocrisy .

Comment #3 by anthony sionni on 2014 03 06

now you know who to vote for.. KEN BLOCK.

Comment #4 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 03 06

Dear GoLocalProv,

I was just starting to think that perhaps I was wrong, and you did not work for the Block campaign. Then this... You do know there has been positive news out of Cranston just this week on their bond rating correct ? Did I miss that story on your site ? It certainly would have been a head line when it went negative ! Correct ?

Comment #5 by Right InRI on 2014 03 06

So, after years of many on the left and the right trying to get some kind of campaign funding reform, GoLo is going to focus on whether state employees (who are also citizens and voters) can contribute at all to political campaigns??? How about we remove the anonymity from corporate and PAC political contributions and fundraising in general before attacking citizens' 'political speech' via campaign contributions?

Comment #6 by Michael Furtado on 2014 03 06

This comes under the heading of the lesser of two evils. Anyone but Raimondo and her puppet master, John Arnold of Enron fame.

Comment #7 by Fruma Efreom on 2014 03 06

if we could get them all tied up maybe there would be less corruption in this state

Comment #8 by Howard Miller on 2014 03 06

No wonder all those police and firefighters in Cranston financially support Mayor Fung. They get rewarded with big union contracts! The state employees see dollar signs with either Tavares or Fung. This article just confirms what everyone in Cranston already knew. Elect either one of these two and you get more government controlled by the special interests in Rhode Island. Of course they will need to raise taxes to take care of all those state employees, just like they have done in Providence and Cranston.

Comment #9 by Marie Dawn Christie on 2014 03 06

Just follow the money. Reading the article tells me so far Block is the candidate to support.

Comment #10 by Jake Robinson on 2014 03 06

I have one question and correct me if I am wrong, but did Angel Tavares and Alan Fung donate to each others campaign?

Comment #11 by Jake Robinson on 2014 03 06

Where's the article on Mryth throwing Taveras over for Gina. That's the story I want to read about. The sound of the one and out being pushed out of the play circle.

Comment #12 by bill bentley on 2014 03 06

Block has to keep throwing his own money into the race because he can't get the grassroots support. Even with Tony Bucci. That's bad.

Comment #13 by George McDonald on 2014 03 07

Ken Block should be a shoo-in unless the dysfunctional G.A. fails to eliminate the master lever by November.

Comment #14 by Joseph Reynolds on 2014 03 07

It'[s just the same old game of Rhode Island Money Ball, bet on the right candidate for governor with your contribution and cash in later.
What else is new? In Providence the money and suppport the unions gave Buddy was reciprocated with a shower of pension "benefits" whach has left the system in the hole it's in today. The average voting stooge never figures out that HE ends up paying for it all, directly or otherwise. Those who do can often be idintified by the Florida plates on their cars. smile

Comment #15 by G Godot on 2014 03 08

BTW, I ain't by any means in the Trav camp but he did end up holding the bag for what Buddy, and the Chick did to the city. Then again, nobody MADE him run for mayor, either.

Comment #16 by G Godot on 2014 03 08




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