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Russell Moore: Fung’s Folly

Monday, April 21, 2014

 

If Allan Fung's goal was to become the poster boy for old school, Byzantine politics, give the man credit: he's been a smashing success.

To say Fung has proven himself tone deaf about conflicts of interest in campaign finance would be an understatement akin to saying Fat Albert was a little bit overweight.

It's long been public knowledge that Fung receives campaign contributions from the leadership of the Cranston Police Union and their family members, and the union’s lawyer, Joe Rodio. I remember my Republican friends telling me they found it interesting that at his campaign fundraisers in 2008 the room would be divided into two sections--hard line Republicans on one side and police union members on the other side.

A Curious Response

But what was jaw dropping was how dismissive, nonchalant, and brazen the mayor was when questioned on Channel 12 Newsmakers about the inherent conflict of interest in taking financial contributions from the very same people whom he was expected to negotiate against on behalf of Cranston city taxpayers.

Fung responded by saying that he not only takes contributions from members of the police union whom he negotiates contracts with, but also the Fire Department, Teamsters, among others. How wonderful!

Don't get me wrong; Fung is far from the only politician in Rhode Island to take campaign donations from unions or other entities in which he's expected to negotiate with on behalf of taxpayers. But at least when former House Speaker Gordon Fox was accused of "pay to play" by his opponent's campaign back in 2012—he dodged and denied the issue as opposed to proudly owning up to it.

Ethics in Journalism vs. Politics

It was always an eye opener for me, as someone who sat through journalism ethics courses in college and was lectured to never take so much as a cup of coffee from a source, let alone a hamburger from somewhere like Gregg's or the Ironworks Tavern.

So consider me surprised that journalists, who can't accept a cup of coffee over an interview with a source, aren't more surprised that politicians like Mayor Fung take financial contributions from the very people they're supposed to sit across the table with in an adversarial role to negotiate a contract (that will be paid for by taxpayers) without batting an eye.

To illustrate how absurd this is, let's take this down to an individual level. Imagine if the mayor wanted to hire a particular individual for his staff that wasn't going to be a member of a city union--someone in senior management, in all likelihood. Prior to the commencement of the discussion between the mayor and the employee as to what taxpayer's should pay that individual, the individual in question slides an envelope across the mayor's desk and says "before we begin discussing my compensation, here's a $1,000 donation to your next reelection campaign".

Here's a Gift, Ready to Negotiate?

Does anyone think that's a fair negotiation on behalf of the taxpayers? That scenario triggers memories of Godfather II when Michael Corleone is forced to make a $1 million dollar gift to the President of Cuba if he wants to be allowed to invest in tourism and casinos in that country.

I highly doubt (and certainly hope) that Fung ever demanded that the unions in his city give him financial contributions (gifts, if you will), so I'm not sure this equates directly to "pay to play". And while city employees have the right to free speech and have the right to make a donation to Fung--he still had the ability to reject those contributions.

But consider this. If the Mayor takes financial gifts from one group, aren't the other groups basically compelled to follow suit. Let's once again bring this down to an individual employee level to illustrate the point. Picture two employees working in the Tax Collector's Department. One employee donates $1,000 personally per year, and his two sons and wife also donate $1,000--for a grand total of $4,000 per year. Working alongside him is another employee who doesn't donate anything.

Perverse Incentive

When the opportunity for a promotion opens up, which person is the Mayor going to be predisposed towards promoting? Only the most naive ostrich in Rhode Island would say that the gifts wouldn't factor into the decision. To quote Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, human nature "it, is what it is".

If you're going to run for Governor of Rhode Island under the mantle of a reformer, as Fung is, one would expect that he would've had the good sense to not accept donations from people in which he would have to negotiate against on behalf of taxpayers. Cranston, however, had no such luck.

Fung’s Standard Operating Procedure

That's because this has been standard operating procedure since Fung took office in 2008. When you have Police Union Presidents like Stephen Antonucci and his family members and scores of other members of the police union donating to Fung, it shouldn't be surprising that the mayor agrees to a deal that's not affordable to taxpayers.

That's what gave birth to the whole Cranston ticket writing scandal, leading to Atonucci's firing and former Chief Marco Palumbo's resignation/retirement.

A Lucrative Deal

After taking contributions from the police union for years, Fung agreed to an expensive deal with the police union--surprise! The deal would've given police officers a raise of 11.25 percent over three years, and cost taxpayers roughly $1 million more per year than they're paying now.

The Democrat controlled Cranston City Council wisely and prudently rejected the deal on behalf of their taxpayers. That's when all the trouble started.

Yet all of this trouble could have been avoided if Fung wasn't so busy taking money from those he was expected to negotiate with. Given the recent ethics scandals we've undergone in this state, it's become more than apparent that Rhode Island needs reformers--not people like Fung who see nothing wrong and are 100 percent comfortable with the old way of doing business.  

A native Rhode Islander, Russell J. Moore is a graduate of Providence College and St. Raphael Academy. He worked as a news reporter for 7 years (2004-2010), 5 of which with The Warwick Beacon, focusing on government. He continues to keep a close eye on the inner workings of Rhode Islands state and local governments.

 

Related Slideshow: Cranston Police Contributions to Allan Fung

Prev Next

Lt. Stephen Antonucci

12 contributions from Vito Antonucci, City of Providence, Public Properties Division, Chepachet RI. Made from 2008-13 total of $825.

  • 6/16/08 $100
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 8/22/08 $50
  • 8/22/08 $50
  • 9/20/08 $100
  • 9/20/08 $100
  • 3/07/09 $100
  • 5/18/09 $100
  • 9/13/11 $100
  • 9/29/13 $100

 

8 Contributions from Michelle Antonucci, 60 Pine Ridge Drive, Cranston (PayChex Inc. of EP as employer).  Made from 2008-2013 for $1,060.

  • 6/19/08 $100
  • 8/06/08 $150
  • 8/06/08 $150
  • 9/23/08 $50
  • 9/23/08 $50
  • 4/16/09 $200
  • 10/26/10 $60
  • 10/03/13 $500

 

2 Contributions from Gail Antonucci, 119 Woodview Drive, Cranston (Homemaker)

  • 6/18/08 $100
  • 5/18/09 $100

 

contributions from Kevin Antonucci, 70 Garden Hills Drive, Cranston (City of Cranston)

  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/28/08 $150
Prev Next

Lt. Alan Loiselle

9 Contributions in name of Alan Loiselle, 20 Eastgate Drive, Warwick (City of Cranston as employer)

  • 6/5/08 $186.83 (In-kind, listed as “Hardware and supplies for headquarters”)
  • 6/16/08 $200
  • 6/23/08 $53.37 (In-kind, see above)
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/31/08 $133.36 (In-kind, “Building materials and supplies”)
  • 5/18/09 $100
  • 9/16/08 $127.12 (In-kind, “Building equipment and supplies”)
  • 8/30/10 $100
  • 10/24/10 $50

 

1 Contribution from Robert Loiselle, Loiselle Insurance Agency, Pawtucket.

  • 10/29/08 $100

 

1 Contribution from Martin Loiselle, retired, 180 Potters Ave., Cranston.

  • 6/16/08 $100
Prev Next

Lt. Carl R. Ricci

7 contributions from a Carl R. Ricci, 76 Northview Ave. Cranston (Phred’s Drugs as employer)

  • 8/20/09 $300
  • 8/30/10 $100
  • 10/30/09 $125
  • 2/25/10 $150
  • 2/23/11 $150
  • 2/21/12 $150
  • 2/21/13 $150

 

Prev Next

Captain Sean Carmody

2 contributions from Sean P. Carmody, 129 Allens Ave. Cranston (City of Cranston employer)

  • 9/21/08 $100
  • 10/08/08 $200

10 contributions from Melissa Augaitis, 10 Basil Crossing, (Employer, Perspectives Corporation)

  • 6/16/08 $200
  • 3/26/09 $100
    2/25/10 $300
    8/30/10 $250
    10/17/10 $200
    2/23/11 $200
    2/29/12 $150
    6/3/13 $250
    6/25/13 $250
    9/29/12 $500

1 contribution from Maureen Carmody, same address, no employer

  • 7/28/08 $100

 

Prev Next

Chief Marco Palombo

4 Contributions in name of Michelle Palombo, 4 Jennifer Circle, Cranston (homemaker)

  • 9/18/08 $50
  • 9/13/11 $150
  • 6/25/13 $200
  • 7/22/13 $200
 
 

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Comments:

I agree with your premise Russell, but find it curious that you singled out Fung. Would you have felt better about it if he had lied like Fox? Just watch any lobbyists (bribers) on the hill, see who they meet with, and watch how the votes go. The little (unconnected) guy doesn't stand a chance. The whole system is corrupted.

Comment #1 by RI Taxpayer on 2014 04 21

another HATCHET JOB by Russell ..

Comment #2 by frank bentley on 2014 04 21

Republicans know that the Democrats have been taking union donations and rewarding the unions for years. This behavior is part of the reason why RI is doing so poorly. Union donations of this magnitude always come with strings. If this was a Democrat doing this, Mayor Fung supporters would be screaming from the highest hill. Apparently they have blinders on when it is their candidate. One has to wonder how much money was donated to the Fung campaign from Cranston fire fighters given they have one of the best contracts in the nation. Apparently Mayor Fung is (Open for Business).

Comment #3 by Reagan Republican on 2014 04 21

Spot on Frank.

Comment #4 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 04 21

Fung is a proto typical Rhode Island politician, his goal is merely to get elected. Fung and Warwick Mayor Avedesian are "RINOS" republicans in name only. That loud noise resonating from Cranston a decade ago, was Republican Laffey fighting for the tax payers against the unions. The unions won, and its been quiet ever since.

Comment #5 by David Beagle on 2014 04 21

Reformed. Ah, yes, that slick word that President Obama used, in an albeit more common form, to get elected - Change.

Everyone seems to want it. And yet, what does it mean? Does it mean to go back to what used to be, when it was still good? Does it mean a return to some utopianistic traditionalism that used to be oh, so much better than it is now? Does it mean to fix every problem and make things good for all 21st century Americans?

No one knows what it really means because it means something different to everyone. America is failing not because of its leaders, it is failing because the majority of its population has believed the lie that what is best and what is right is a matter of his own choices.

Mr. Fung isn't perfect, but to pick one aspect about his business approach and claim it makes him evil and unworthy to be governor is silly.

Comment #6 by e- lumino on 2014 04 21

Ahh, Mayor Fung's true character was all but revealed in a recent interview on Channel 12. Has no issue taking union donations while negotiating with them, and rewarding them with contracts with raises. He has no problem doctoring video to attack opponents with false information. This man will do anything to get elected! If you are supporting him is there no end to what you will dismiss knowing it is wrong?

Comment #7 by Marie Dawn Christie on 2014 04 21

I remember the words proudly penned by the former GOP Mayor of Cranston and future Colorado Congressman Steve Laffey
In one column, Laffey said he has never seen a happy homosexual.
"This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet," he wrote. "All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

In another column he wrote that pop music was turning the children of America into sissies, and criticized the singer Boy George, referring to him as ...... "it."

"It wears girl's clothes and puts on makeup," he wrote. "When I hear it sing, 'Do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry,' I say to myself, YES, I want to punch your lights out, pal, and break your ribs."
The "TOLERANT" right proves their true selves again and again and again

Comment #8 by Sammy Arizona on 2014 04 21

Sammy, did you read the same article as the rest of us? WTF are you talking about?

Comment #9 by RI Taxpayer on 2014 04 21

Mayor Fung has accepted donations from members of the union in support of his candidacy to be mayor. That is a fact and to me does not seem all that alarming. It is funny how people, when questioned on what they hate the most about politics, will usually say something along the lines of partisanship or corruption or lack of doing what is fundamentally right. And now that there is a man who has finally not bought into the "politics as usual" mentality, he is criticized and ridiculed for doing so. As a society we need to stop being so harsh, and not take a one-sided approach to beliefs. What the mayor has done in the city of Cranston should be an example for fellow leaders across the state. He worked WITH the unions to find an agreement that is fundamentally rooted in compromise. If you look at the numbers, rather than PARTISAN opinionated attack articles, maybe we would all see the benefits that have come from negotiating with unions. Under a Fung Administration the taxpayers have always come first. Mayor Fung is a likable person who is willing to work with others to find a solution. And a man who has this work ethic is able to gain respect from all types of people, regardless of agenda or political affiliation. Unionists donating to a republican mayor should be seen as a good thing, not as a bad thing. Please, can we not be so cynical and not fall victim to these attack articles that are very much so a political move to promote their own candidate.

Comment #10 by Evan Gillissie on 2014 04 22

Ken Block is a weasel. He's not getting my vote. I don't agree with Fung's catering to unions, but people are fooling themselves if they think Block will be better. Lets not forget who the putz voted for in the last two Presidential elections. If you want another Chafee, Block is your "man".

Comment #11 by Jenn Palumbo on 2014 06 02




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