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Congressional Candidates Debate Campaign Finance Reform, Jobs

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


The four Democratic Congressional candidates in the First District sparred over campaign finance reform and job creation at a debate last night sponsored by The League of Women Voters and ABC 6. The debate was broadcast on Cox Channel 5, ABC 6’s round-the-clock news channel.

The four candidates divided over who had a better record on campaign finance reform. David Segal asked Providence Mayor David Cicilline if he would return money he received from the political action committee for Dominion Resources, a Mid-Atlantic based coal and nuclear company.

“The overwhelm majority of my campaign contributions come from individuals - come from Rhode Islanders. That will continue to be the case,” Cicilline responded. He said rejecting one PAC contribution over another was not the way to fix a system that he described as “fundamentally broken.”

Candidates Defend PAC Donations

Cicilline called for three reforms: a lifetime ban on ex-Congressmen from becoming lobbyists, passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, and reversing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited funds on political advertising.

Anthony Gemma said he was the only candidate that did not take money from special interests, lobbyists, or PACs.

Segal said he did not take money from any PACs affiliated with corporations and Bill Lynch said he had received only one contribution from a PAC run by his sister. He also supported the Fair Elections Now Act and a lifetime ban on lobbying. But he said term limits for Congress would be the most effective way of reforming the system.

Gemma Announces He Will Forgo Salary

During the debate, Gemma announced that he would forgo his first-year Congressional salary of $174,000 and use the money to fund four additional staff positions needed to implement his jobs plan, which envisions the development of a wellness industry in Rhode Island. Gemma has said his plan will result in 10,000 new jobs for the state.

Gemma criticized Cicilline’s Jobs Now Providence program, saying it had cost $46 million but only resulted in 32 new jobs. Cicilline said that it had actually placed 213 people in jobs—including one person at Gemma’s former company, Gem Plumbing and Heating.

All of the candidates favored the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but only one—David Segal, said he would vote to cut funding while troops are still stationed overseas. Segal said he would rather vote to fund their “safe and expeditious” return home.


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