Welcome! Login | Register

Subscribe Now: Free Daily EBlast

 
 

5 Upstart Political Groups in RI That Will Influence 2016 Election

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

 

With the primary election in Rhode Island less than seven weeks away, Republicans, Democrats, and Independent and third party candidates are vying for local seats to the General Assembly, and more.

Apart from the traditional party apparatus, a number of groups are working directly — or indirectly — to influence this November’s elections

SLIDES: See 5 Upstart Groups that Could Influence this Election in Rhode Island BELOW

Sam Bell, who is state director for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America, noted the advantages, and disadvantages, in pushing for a progressive agenda within the traditional party structure. 

“We have some disadvantages. We have no paid staff to run campaigns, we don't have organizers, we don't have a machine or operation,” said Bell. “It's done in some folks' free time. I’m not a professional political consultant. We don't have a huge donor base, we don't have state house resources at our disposal.  We’re fortunate to have groups like Planned Parenthood to work with, who both supports a core tenet of our platform — a woman’s right to choose — and has deep resources."

The Progressive Democrats recently endorsed a slate of candidates, and Bell said more endorsements would be forthcoming. 

“Our advantage is we just have a lot of people who agree with us - so what we lack in money and resources, when people generally agree with us, on a number of issues, it gives us an advantage in campaigns,” said Bell. “With our volunteers we can compete with deeply funded campaigns. The fact that people want change is worth something. 

Distinguishing Advocacy — and Investigation

Mike Stenhouse

One organization that has emerged in recent years came about due to political constraints on non-profit groups, including the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

The Gaspee Project, which was formed just under two years ago, is a 501(c)4, which allows the group to engage in political activity — to a certain extent. 

“We really ramped up this year,” said Mike Stenhouse, who is the CEO of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, and also involved in Gaspee. “In the last few years, we've learned from cohorts in other states, that it's difficult to move a policy agenda as a 501(c)3. “So a separate [501(c)(4)] was formed to pay the policy issues more attention.”

Stenhouse noted that the Gaspee Project incorporated other issue groups that need a bigger voice. 

“We've been slowly raising money, and partnering with single issue groups,” said Stenhouse. “The property rights alliance, who was against RhodeMap; anti-mandatory HPV vaccine moms, the StopTolls  movement - and now we've got the Gaspee Business Project.”

“Regardless of how much money we raise, we only can spend so much. We can't spend more than 50% on electioneering,” said Stenhouse. “For instance, the flyers we sent out this spring were public interest, issue based -- voting records, for instance. We’ll be more political moving forward.  And we don’t take any money from outside the state, contrary to what some people say.”

 

Related Slideshow: Leaders, Groups Call for Release of 38 Studios Docs Following Criminal Investigaton

Prev Next

House GOP Caucus

Republicans

The House Minority Caucus has sent a letter to Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight, Representative Patricia A. Serpa, requesting that the Committee reconvene, to subpoena and release to the public, documents related to the 38 Studios investigation. 

The letter comes following an announcement by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Steve O’Donnell, that there would be no criminal charges following the investigation.

Members of the House Minority Caucus believe Rhode Islanders have a right to know all the facts surrounding the 38 Studios investigation, and that Attorney General Kilmartin’s refusal to release these investigatory records is an affront to the hard-working Rhode Island taxpayers who are footing the bill for this misadventure.

Prev Next

Sen. Steve Archambault

Democrat

Senator Steve Archambault Friday called on Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to  seek Court Permission to release the documents stemming from the 38 Studios Investigation.   Archambault said, “In order to make sure a debacle like 38 Studios never happens again, we need all the information about how it occurred. Rhode Islanders deserve to know the whole and unvarnished truth . It is only by getting all the facts out that we can learn from our mistakes and make sure this kind of large-scale waste of taxpayers’ money never happens again.”
 
Archambault said, “The public interest requires the release of these records  They can provide a big piece of the puzzle..I call on Attorney General Kilmartin to immediately take all the steps needed to secure their release.”

Prev Next

Rep. Deb Ruggiero

Democrat

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is calling upon Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin to release documents related to the state’s four-year investigation into the 38 Studios deal, adding her voice to a growing list of state leaders seeking transparency for the probe that ended last week without criminal charges.

“The people of Rhode Island deserve transparency on this investigation,” she wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Attorney General Kilmartin. She wrote that she understands that, while some parts of the investigation likely are exempt from disclosure laws, the rest should be subject to public scrutiny because “…the people of Rhode Island are entitled to know something about the ‘bad business deal’ of 38 Studios and the four-year investigation. It’s the public’s right to access information; and it’s about open, good government.”

“Other than the fact that some indictments were rendered in the Station Nightclub Fire, how is this different?” she asked in the letter. “Former Attorney General Patrick Lynch recognized the public’s right to know in the Station Fire in order to move the state forward.”

Attorney General Kilmartin and State Police Supt. Col. Steven G. O’Donnell announced last week that, although the investigation will remain open, it is now inactive and no criminal charges are being filed in relation to the state’s 2010 investment of $75 million for loan guarantees to Curt Schilling’s video game development company, which moved to Rhode Island in 2011 and swiftly went bankrupt. The attorney general has declined to release records related to the lengthy investigation.

Prev Next

AG Arlene Violet

Republican

Former Attorney General called on Governor Raimondo to order Col. Steven O'Donnell to release the RI State Police documents. And, she urged Attorney General Kilmartin to pettion Superior Court to release the grand jury documents. Violet also joined with GoLocal and Governor Raimondo in flagging that Kilmartin should have recused himself considering his close polical alignment with former Speaker Bill Murphy and former Speaker Gordon Fox. Fox oversaw the crafting of the financing scheme for 38 Studios. Kilmartin served in the leadership team with the two and, in fact, voted for the legislation. Violet made these statements during the Friday taping of ABC6's "In the Arena."

Prev Next

Rep. Pat Serpa

Democrat

House Oversight Chairwoman Patricia Serpa calls on attorney general to release 38 Studios documents:

“Release of these documents would be a public service,” said Representative Serpa. “The people of Rhode Island have a right to know the complete story about the 38 Studios debacle.

The timing of that press conference — 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon — has left many Rhode Islanders suspicious and concerned,” said Representative Serpa. “This is yet another reason people are skeptical of government. The truth must be exposed and those responsible must be held accountable.”

Prev Next

Mayor Allan Fung

Republican

In a joint statement with Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian:

"The collapse of 38 Studios will burden the taxpayers of Rhode Island with millions of dollars of debt for years to come and has brought about another cycle of enormous cynicism in the state. After a four-year investigation, taxpayers of Rhode Island deserve to have a clear picture of how the state ended up on the hook for the debts of 38 Studios - and who is ultimately responsible for the costs related to this failed business venture. As we learned this week, although the investigation remains open, it is now inactive. We echo the calls of numerous public officials demanding that the Attorney General release all documents and related information pertaining to the investigation so taxpayers may have a clear and more complete story?"

Prev Next

Rep. Joseph Shekarchi

Democrat

"100% the documents should be released -- the people have lost confidence in their government leaders and the only way we can do restore it is a full dissemination."

Prev Next

David Norton

Democratic Candidate for Rhode Island House of Representatives

"The Attorney General is supposed to serve as the "People's Lawyer”.  Sadly, Attorney General Kilmartin voted for 38 Studios when he was a State Rep but failed to recuse himself from the investigation.  He should have recused himself from the investigation because he was involved and people he knows(friends) were involved. When you consider his involvement in 38 Studios, it becomes very apparent to any observer that the Attorney General not looking out for the interests of the people, he is looking to protect his friends.  If there is one thing in this world that Rhode Island needs to see, it is all of the evidence on 38 Studios.

There are surely mountains of evidence of illegal activities by loads of state leaders but he claims there isn't enough!?  Why should Rhode Islanders be able to see what evidence there is?  We need serious reforms in Rhode Island and we need our elected officials to speak out about corruption and favoritism.  We need leadership from Speaker Mattiello but instead all we get is political theater.

I would like to publicly call on Speaker Mattiello to step up and follow the advice of his opponent Steven Frias and “ask the House Oversight Committee to begin a full investigation into 38 Studios and use its subpoena powers to obtain documentation collected by State Police and the R.I. Attorney General related to 38 Studios.”

Prev Next

Sam Bell

Chair, Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America 

"Obviously, the records should be released.  But the more important point is that Peter Kilmartin has an obvious conflict of interest. The man who did the most to elevate Kilmartin was Bill Murphy, who would be the top target of any real 38 Studios investigation. Kilmartin should have recused himself. Refusing to release the documents looks especially bad because there is a clear political incentive for Kilmartin to conduct a coverup.

One group that has not received enough blame for 38 Studios is the members of the media who did not shine a bright enough light on this corporate welfare deal. Many of the same media figures who are happy to talk about 38 Studios after the fact refuse to cover the massive explosion of corporate welfare following Gina Raimondo's enormous expansion of the very agency that did 38 Studios. Instead of just giving out loans, Rhode Island is now just handing out straight cash to politically connected corporations. It is the media's duty to cover corporate welfare before these deals go south as well as afterwards."

Prev Next

Rep. Patricia Morgan

Republican

"Rhode Islanders deserve to see all the information; they are paying dearly for this deal that benefitted insiders, but certainly not them. It is little wonder that Rhode Islanders have lost faith in the system.  After an investigation that has lasted 4 long years and blockaded the attempts of others to get the truth, the State’s chief law official has asserted that nothing happened in the 38 Studios deal that he can punish.  

It is disturbing that he is unwilling to share the information, data, or names with the public.  He should not use the Grand Jury as an excuse to withhold the information. He has the ability to waive the ‘confidentiality’ of the Grand Jury proceedings and should do so.  This troubling deal will cast a shadow over Rhode Island until transparency and accountability are secured for our citizens."

Prev Next

Mayor Avedisian

Republican

In a joint statement with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung:

"The collapse of 38 Studios will burden the taxpayers of Rhode Island with millions of dollars of debt for years to come and has brought about another cycle of enormous cynicism in the state. After a four-year investigation, taxpayers of Rhode Island deserve to have a clear picture of how the state ended up on the hook for the debts of 38 Studios - and who is ultimately responsible for the costs related to this failed business venture. As we learned this week, although the investigation remains open, it is now inactive. We echo the calls of numerous public officials demanding that the Attorney General release all documents and related information pertaining to the investigation so taxpayers may have a clear and more complete story?"

Prev Next

Speaker Nick Mattiello

Democrat

"I called upon the State Police and the Attorney General to release any and all information pertaining to 38 Studios. The taxpayers have a right to the complete story."

Prev Next

Gov. Lincoln Chafee

Democrat

"I beleive all the records should be released. I agree with Speaker Mattiello - let's see all the records," said the former Governor in a phone interview with GoLocal on Tuesday.

Prev Next

Rep. Brian Newberry

Republican

"At a bare minimum, the results of the State Police investigation should be made public. I understand the general reluctance of a prosecutor not to release publicly details of an investigation that has not resulted in criminal charges being brought. Privacy considerations are obviously paramount. But this is not a normal investigation. For example, I understand that every sitting member of the Assembly at the time was interviewed by the State Police. I know I was back in 2013-14. I have no objection to that interview being made public and I would hope no other Assembly member would object to their own interviews being made public. Likewise subpoenaed documents can have key details like SSNs, account numbers etc,. redacted and also made public. 

There will never be public trust until the air is clear on this and given my firm belief that the vast majority of elected officials back in 2009-2010, including most (if not all) senior members of Democratic leadership at the time, have nothing to hide we will all be better off if this is done."

Prev Next

Rep. Bobby Nardolillo

Republican

"We are dealing with a statewide negative perception of our Government's and it's leaders, the reason, is lack of transparency. We need a more open government to help reestablish trust , and we need to hold those who break this trust accountable for their actions.   These records should be released immediately.  We can't move forward as a State without accountability.  I am also very disappointed in our Governor and her flip flop stance on an independent investigation.  If she truly cares about RI and Rhode Islands future she needs to keep her promises to those whom she serves."

Prev Next

Steve Frias

Republican Candidate for Rhode Island House of Representatives 

 "If the State Police or the Attorney General will not disclose this information, the Speaker should ask the House Oversight Committee to begin a full investigation into 38 Studios and use its subpoena powers to obtain documentation collected by State Police and the R.I. Attorney General related to 38 Studios.  When it comes to 38 Studios, there will be no closure for Rhode Islanders until they know all the facts and learn exactly what role their elected officials played in this debacle."

Prev Next

Rep. Joe McNamara

Democratic State Party Chair

“This has been a long and difficult period for Rhode Island, our government and the people of our state. Now that the investigation has concluded, it is time to move on – but not without first fully disclosing the information within those records that were withheld and presented in that investigation. By not doing so, we only continue to allow a cloud of suspicion to remain over our state, to the detriment of all.”

Prev Next

Brandon Bell

Chair, Rhode Island Republican Party

"As Steve Frias requested and Speaker Mattiello and these groups echoed, I believe records of all investigatory proceedings for 38 Studios should be released. The secrecy that is being promoted, in a matter of such great public interest, erodes public trust in the criminal justice system and inhibits the public's ability to seek particular reforms in the way our taxpayer dollars are spent. The clandestine manner in which the case is being handled stands in stark contrast to the transparent handling of grand jury records in other matters such as the Station Nightclub tragedy.  

The argument that release of grand jury and investigatory related records would invite scrutiny and embarrassment of individuals is valid but not in a case of this magnitude and length. We can't establish any meaningful reforms to a broken system if we don't find out who put their self interest over the public interest."

Prev Next

Ken Block

Founder Rhode Island Moderate Party and WatchdogRI, former gubernatorial candidate

"The ACLU letter to me made terrific sense, and the AG's position is wrong. Kilmartin should be erring on the side of transparency. I think Speaker's Mattiello's position however is not credible -- he's had the ability through House Oversight all along to pull under subpoena all the info he says he's seeking. 

The only time that anything seems get done in Rhode Island is when there's a big outcry - but it's continuing and building I'll say again Rhode Island deserves to understand how it happened and the job of politicians is not to get in way of transparency."

Prev Next

Pat Ford

Chair, Libertarian Party of Rhode Island

"Sadly, the shallow, single stage thinking that ushered in the era of the epic government failure known as 38 Studios is again present in its final days. Cleverly, in a manner resembling feral animals, the Government Class has created the perfect conundrum: Employ a Grand Jury format, so as to erect yet one more legal barrier to Government transparency, while purporting, OJ Simpson like, to be in pursuit of the truth, so as to cynically inoculate the proceedings from the public eye, forever.

Turn over the damn records."

Prev Next

Gary Sasse

Former Rhode Island Director of Administration, and Founder and Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership

"Releasing all information accumulated investigating the 38 Studios fiasco is a no-brainer. Rhode Island’s elected officials should take all responsible steps to restore confidence of voters in the transparency and integrity of State government. Until the public believes that there has been full-disclosure on 38 Studios a pale of cynicism will hang over Rhode Island. This will continue to have an impact on state officials developing a consensus to move Rhode Island forward in an increasingly competitive economic environment. Failure by the Attorney General, Governor and legislative leadership to insure complete and full disclosure will subject the state to continued and avoidable reputational risks.
 
As the late Justice Brandeis said over 100 years ago, 'Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial disease. Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectanta.' It is time the politicians let the sun shine on 38 Studios."

Prev Next

Mike Stenhouse

CEO, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity

"In an outrageous turn of events, the rigged system that favors insiders will not release the names of those officials who acted in an unethical political manner. Once again Rhode Islanders have been denied answers in the 38 Studios affair. After a four year investigation, the public knows nothing more about the corrupt 38 Studios story. For years it has been the position of the Center that the political implications were equally, if not MORE IMPORTANT than any potential criminal implications. For this reason, I renew our call for the Governor to make good on her campaign promise to initiate an independent investigation."

Prev Next

Common Cause of RI

Nonprofit open government watchdog group 

“[T]he disaster known as 38 Studios happened because of a deeply ingrained culture of secrecy in this state. The official state investigation into that disaster should not perpetuate that culture.”

Prev Next

RI ACLU

Civil liberties group 

"Regarding the grand jury records, the [ACLU] pointed to two other newsworthy incidents – the Station Fire tragedy and, in 2000, the shooting of off-duty police officer Cornel Young, Jr. – where grand jury records were released. The groups rejected as unpersuasive the arguments that the two law enforcement agencies have given for not following the path taken in the Station Fire investigation in having the records opened."

Prev Next

League of Women Voters

Voting advocacy organization

"The [group] also argued there were compelling reasons for releasing the investigatory records that were gathered by the two agencies outside of the grand jury. Noting that “of the 146 witnesses your agencies interviewed, only 11 were called before the grand jury,” the group stated that there was “thus a wide range of independent information gathered by your agencies that would shed light on this incredibly important incident in Rhode Island history if you publicly released the information – which, under the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), you have the clear right to do.

The letter noted that the State Police recently took that route following two highly publicized incidents – the Cranston parking ticket scandal and the controversial school resource officer “body slam” incident at Tolman High School in Pawtucket. “Surely the public deserves similar access to information about an investigation involving millions of taxpayer dollars,” the letter claimed."

Prev Next

GoLocalProv.com

Editorial

"So let's get this straight. There are no charges after four years of investigation and it is inactive.

But, if we open up the documents, that could somehow jeopardize the integrity of the investigation, which is...closed. And so far has yielded....nothing. 

Well, that make sense. About as much sense as voting to give 38 Studios $75 million, or spending four years of time investigating and issuing no charges."

Prev Next

Justin La Croix

Candidate for State Representative, District 71

“Our tax dollars are being tossed around like confetti, bailing out million dollar private endeavors with public funding seems par for the course with our current state legislators-enough is enough, we are not your personal ATM’s. 

We all deserve to know how 38 Studios played out because this type of irresponsible behavior happens all too often in Rhode Island and history will repeat itself with the current regime of lawmakers that toss around our tax dollars. Representative Canario, I ask you to stop protecting special interests and join the fight that demands answers rather than protecting the people involved in this boondoggle.

We need to “Break the Cycle” of corruption in Rhode Island and it starts with our lawmakers demanding transparency, not supporting secrecy."

 
 

Related Articles

 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

 

X

Stay Connected — Free
Daily Email
 
:!