EXCLUSIVE: Confidential Memo Unveils Secret Fund to Beat Buddy Cianci

Friday, September 19, 2014


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GoLocalProv has obtained a copy of a confidential memo outlining the strategy by a group of predominantly East Side residents to create a secret fund of $1 million to defeat Buddy Cianci for Mayor of Providence this November.

UPDATED 1:00 am

According to a confidential memo emailed by failed Providence Mayoral candidate Lorne Adrain on Tuesday to a group of 29 including a number of former top level staffers to David Cicilline, the group’s goal is to create a 501(c)(4) fund – a fund that would not have to disclose its members. 

The individuals listed on the memo include: top Washington Trust Banker Ned Handy, former top David Cicilline aides Carol Grant and Deb Brayton, former Providence Journal Editor of the Editorial Page Bob Whitcomb, and three-time candidate for Governor Myrth York, to name a few

The only Latino member of the group, Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, disavowed membership of the group in a phone interview.  "I was included in that list, to let me know what's going on," said Dr. Rodriguez. "I wasn't part of the prior conversation."  

"I'm not really part of that group -- I really can't be in my role as a radio host.  I think that they wanted to bring it to my attention.  Lorne's been a good friend of mine for ages," added Rodriguez.

Fund Defended

In an interview with GoLocal on Thursday night, Adrain said, "The 501 (c) (4) effort should be formed by tomorrow afternoon (Friday). We know who we're going to call, we've got a great group of people helping about the messaging."

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SuperPac and 501(c)(4)s are the popular structures to influence elections and protect the identity of their voters. SuperPacs and  501(c)(4) organizations both shield their donors and both are being used to influence issues and political campaigns.

Non-Profit Quarterly raises issues about the political use of 501(c)(4)s and their impact.  "This isn’t good news for the nonprofit sector. The Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity report that the spending of super PACs in the 2010 election was big, but super PAC spending was less than that of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. The (c)(4)s outspent super PACs by three to two, $95 million to $65 million."

The leading organizer of the anti-Cianci 501 (c)(4) defends the effort, "As you might imagine, it's evolving quickly, what started as a conversation about what we think about the race in general, and making sure Buddy's not our Mayor again."

"It turned into things we might do in an independent effort -- it takes on a different approach and legal issues.  We're serious about doing this right...and hope to be in several days in the position to have the chassis and infrastructure and mission and story and go to the market, and say come with us," said Adrain.

The Secret Memo Carves Out the Strategy

According to the Adrain memo to the group, the messaging outlined is that this group must raise issues about Cianci and make claims about Cianci being a rapist so Elorza can stay positive. The memo links Michael Solomon's former chief of staff and recent campaign manager Jake Bissaillon to the effort. Solomon was narrowly defeated by Jorge Elorza in the Democratic Primary. Solomon, who is the subject of an investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission after a GoLocal investigation into improper reporting of assets in his disclosure reports, endorsed Elorza after the primary.

The Group

Adrain's email thanks members for participating in the effort to organize the group includes:

Myrth York - former Campaign Chair for Brett Smiley and three-time Democratic Nominee for Governor

Carol Grant - former top aide to then-Mayor David Cicilline, business executive for Verizon and Textron

Deb Brayton - former top aide to then-Senator Lincoln Chafee and then-Mayor David Cicilline

Jack Partridge - Providence Lawyer

David Preston - Political Consultant

Ned Handy - President and COO of Washington Trust Bank

Teny Gross - Executive Director of the Institute for Non-Violence

Both the Cianci and Elorza campaigns refused comment. 


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Related Slideshow: Buddy Cianci in the National Media

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The Economist

The Economist took a shot at Cianci and the city of Providence, referencing Cianci as a "gangster" and referring to Providence as "New England's armpit."

“Even Mr Cianci’s critics concede that he loves Providence and wants it to do well,” the article states. “But his reputation could deter businesses from moving to the city, which was once known as the ‘beehive of industry.’ Not all comebacks are welcome.”

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The Boston Globe

"He’s been the anticorruption candidate and the convict, his city’s savior and its sad laughingstock—sometimes simultaneously," quipped Boston Globe staff writer Nestor Ramos.

The Globe's piece on Cianci "auditioning one more time for a role he’s twice given up in disgrace" recapped each of the former mayor's first 2 stints in office, as well as noting his ability to stay relevant without holding public office.

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The Daily Beast

"Can America's Favorite Ex-Con Mayor Win Again?" the Daily Beast's David Freelander asks.

"In the Museum of American Political Scandals, if it ever gets built, there will be exhibits on Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner and Larry “Wide Stance” Craig and Marion Barry. And there should be an entire wing dedicated to The Buddy Cianci Story," Freelander writes.

The piece, linked again here, chronicles the ups and downs of Cianci's stints as mayor with playful references back to Freelander's hypothetical museum wing.

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Washington Post

"The most interesting man in Rhode Island is running for office. Again," states Jamie Fuller of the Washington Post.

Dubbing him "The P.T. Barnum of Providence," the Post details dozens of notable events from Cianci's tenures as mayor, from zoo breakouts to political scnadals to his stay in prison.

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The Wall Street Journal

"In Providence, Mr. Cianci, an Independent, is widely viewed as having an almost supernatural gift for retail politics, wrote Jennifer Levitz of the Wall Street Journal. "The long-standing joke was that at least one cliché was written for him: Buddy Cianci would attend the opening of an envelope."

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New York Times

The New York Times identified Cianci as "the garrulous and polarizing former mayor of Providence, R.I., whose two stints in office collapsed in felony convictions."

The NYT's Jess Bidgood wrote Cianci startled "those who assumed that his protracted public weighing of a mayoral bid could not possibly be serious. They are now left to contemplate the fact that a victory by Mr. Cianci, in a crowded field and with a devoted following, is not entirely out of the question."

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Business Insider

Business Insider called Cianci "The Poster Boy of U.S. Political Scandals" in their mostly AP-driven short on the former mayor's decision to run again.

Business Insider's Colin Campbell noted "there's no shortage of political baggage that could impede his comeback."

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Associated Press

"Under his watch, the city transformed from a down-at-the-heels urban center with a dwindling downtown to an arts and culture hub. He often boasts that he literally moved rivers to improve the downtown," wrote AP reporter Michelle Smith.  "He was the city's biggest cheerleader, and joked that as mayor he would attend the opening of an envelope. Stories abound in the city of times when Cianci would show up unannounced and uninvited to the smallest event, including neighborhood cookouts."

The AP story on Cianci's candidacy was picked up by many top political blogs and news outlets.

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Meredith Vieira

East Providence native and former Today and View star Meredith Vieira spoke with the Boston Herald about Cianci's return

“I think it’s fabulous,” Vieira said of Cianci’s decision to run. “He’s just part of Providence. He’s part of the fabric of Rhode Island history.”

Viera told the Herald her late mother "would be first in line" to vote for Cianci, recalling conversations they'd had in the past about the mayor.

“I’d say, ‘Mom, he’s kind of a crook isn’t he?’ She’d say, ‘I don’t care. The city is run beautifully,’” Vieira recalled. “And he did so much to turn that city around. I give that guy a lot of credit. Now, he does know where every body’s buried, clearly, but ...”


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