Arthur Schaper: Fung: Full Disclosure on Funding and Failures

Friday, January 17, 2014


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Past failings should not inhibit one's capacity to serve the present, provided that we grow from failures, and they betray no moral failings, believes Arthur Schaper.

Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston, Rhode Island could teach Republicans, Democrats, and definitely President Barack Obama a thing or two about full disclosure: accountability and acceptance at all costs.

Donations and Donors

First, Go Local reported on Fung's campaign donations and donors earlier this year, and also last year.

He gave hundreds of dollars to Democratic candidates in the past. That sucks. Then again, Democratic mayor Taveras gave Fung money, too. Dr. Dan Harrop's own admission about funding for candidate Taveras could not make the case any better: you give money to the (oh so slighty ) better candidate. Sometimes a RINO is better than a "Hell No!" candidate. And in Rhode Island, sometimes that means settling for a Democrat.

For the record, I have friends who voted for Bill Clinton instead of Bob Dole in 1996, and sometimes I think that they made the better choice!

Later, regarding his campaign war chest,

Fung received $7,000 in donations from individual police officers. There is nothing wrong with that. Individual employees, public or private, have every right to contribute their salaries as they see fit. The real problem emerges when candidates are accepting corporate (yes, corporate!) donations from union funds, i.e. collecting donations from collective bargaining units. Whether the candidate is a Republican or a Democrat, those monies are not fully voluntary donations, since they draw from coerced union dues. Citizens United should give way to Workers Relieved, as in relieved from compelled membership and compulsory dues to a worker's union in order to have and keep a job.

By the way, RI GOP Chairman Mark Smiley gets props for saying "No!" to union money. Chairman Jim Brulte of the CA GOP took a stipend of sorts from the SEIU. Are public sector cronies are buying both sides of the aisle in Sacramento? They have already bought the Rhode Island General Assembly. Still, as long as politicians respond to individual interests instead of gang-bang bullying, then the voters can expect a government which works for everyone, not just for the gainfully employed.

Cranston Ticket Scandal

More unsettling disclosures followed in Fung's footsteps, with the ticket scandal of Cranston , a day which will live in media-hyped infamy. Let me see if I can write this up without missing the fine gritty politics underneath. Two Democrats on the city council (there are seven Dems and two Reps, plus mayor Fung). The first revelation in this scandal, asuccès de scandale, begins with Dem councilmembers Steven A. Stycos and Paul H. Archetto, who voted against a labor contract favored by (and certain to favor) the city police union. Their reason: it was too expensive.

Democrats in Rhode Island voting against an overgenerous labor contract: Has hell frozen over? (I know that Rhode Island did this year, but wow!)

Twenty-four hours afterward, Cranston police issued 128 parking tickets in the two councilmembers' wards. In effect, they sustained political retaliation for representing their constituents at the expense of expensive public sector unions. Bravo, Stycos and Archetto. The rub deepens when four anonymous letters detailed this retaliation to Stycos. Fung sparked an internal investigation, but when the tickets hit the fan, Fung called on the Rhode Island state police to get involved.

First of all, I cannot think of a stupider form or retaliation then ticketing taxpaying Cranstonites, whose representatives rejected a lavish contract, which would have come out of the pockets of the very people ticketed. Can someone shout "Chutzpah"? It's one thing to smear a harsh radio critic, but when public unions attack the very people who pay their salaries (pensions, benefits), whom they are supposed to serve, once has to wonder if they are pushing to disband themselves out of a subtle sense of misplaced guilt.

Second, Fung could have immediately sought outside firms to investigate this corruption. At least now everyone knows what unions will do to get "theirs" out of yours. Last of all, Fung demonstrated some (some!) leadership in placing Cranston police chief Marco Palombo Jr . on leave. Will this black eye leave Fung out of the running?

Maybe Fung's latest admission will, or not.

Crash Disclosure

Go Local reported this week that Fung killed a man in 1989. Scandalous? ProJo reported that 18-year-old college boy Fung lost consciousness while driving down I-95 and struck a man. A grand jury declined to indict Fung, who paid restitution to the family. Associated Press (by way of Huffington Post) provides more details from then and now. While critics may cynically assume that Fung's full disclosure flows from his drive to protect his gubernatorial run, Fung had acknowledged this terrible tragedy. . . in 2002, when he ran for city council, but ProJo declined to run the story then(!) 

Strictly speaking, this accidental death was not a secret!

Frankly, Fung's disclosure is respectable, not diminishing the painful consequences of his fatal negligence. He acknowledged the wrongdoing then and now. Leaders should not fear to acknowledge their failures. One question comes to mind: would we be as lenient with opposition candidates as well as our own who disclose previous personal failings? Past failings should not inhibit one's capacity to serve the present, provided that we grow from failures, and they betray no moral failings.


Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter@ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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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