PawSox Owners Have Given Hundreds of Thousands in Political Contributions

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


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The new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to candidates and elected officials in Rhode Island -- and its lobbying and communications team have donated over six figures combined on top of that.  

Owners James Skeffington, Tom Ryan, Terry Murray, William Egan (who comprise less than half of the new ownership group) along with their spouses have given over $130,000 in campaign donations since 2002, and lobbyist Bob Goldberg and communications consultant Patti Doyle have given over $100,000 combined during the same time frame.

Other owners in the group including Habib Gorgi, Bernard Cammarata, Arthur Nichols, and Frank Resnek have no records of contribution on the Rhode Island Board of Elections site; Red Sox president Larry Lucchino gave one donation --  $1000 -- to Jeremy Kapstein's bid for Rhode Island Lt. Governor in 2010. 

"Pay to play is hard to pin down. Most campaign donors and recipients are careful never to agree on a quid pro quo of any kind. My first assignment at Common Cause Rhode Island was to write an ethics complaint against then-Gov. Edward D. DiPrete. Among other things, he steered a contract for a fresh-water quality study to a sewer contractor who had contributed over $20,500 to his campaign. We barely scratched the surface," said former Common Cause Director and historian H. Philip West, Jr. 

"We later learned that the standard price of entry was $10,000 for a $200,000 contract. In 1998, the former governor pled guilty to eighteen felonies," said West. "He acknowledged 'mistakes of judgment' in connection with his campaign war chest: 'The pressures of raising money for campaign spending obviously clouded my perspective.”

Numbers Include Thousands to Raimondo

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Last week the new PawSox ownership group presented a proposal for an $85 million stadium in Providence -- and a lease agreement that would result in up to $120 million in tax breaks for the owners over the thirty year period. 

The Rhode Island Board of Elections's website lists the donation histories of the group, whose combined net worth is in the billions.  

Listing a home address on the Newport waterfront, William Egan, the founder and general partner of Boston-based Alta Communications and Marion Partners, has given over $8,500 to just a handful of candidates since 2002  -- including $3,000 to Governor Gina Raimondo and $1,000 to the Rhode Island State Democratic Committee.  Wife Jacalyn gave $6,000 to candidates during the same time frame, including $2,000 to Raimondo and $1,000 to the State Democratic Committee under her name.

Former CVS CEO Tom Ryan primarily gave during his days at the Woonsocket-based company's helm (prior to retiring in 2012 with a $58 million pension) when he listed a home address in Narragansett, covering both sides of the aisle with contributions ranging to Democrats David Cicilline and Steven Alves to Republicans Kernan King and Don Carcieri totaling over $16,000 -- and records show Ryan has given Raimondo $2500 since 2012.  Ryan's wife Cathy has given nearly $7000 since 2002, including $3000 to Raimondo. 

The face of the new PawSox ownership, Rhode Island lawyer James Skeffington has given over $66,000 to Rhode Island statewide candidates and campaigns since 2002, including $5000 to Raimondo since 2010, and thousands to the Rhode Island House and Senate Leadership PACs, as well as the Providence Chamber PAC. Wife Barbara is listed as having given $2,000 to former Governor Don Carcieri.

Former Fleet bank chief executive Terry Murray is listed as having given over $9500 over the years, including $3,000 to Raimondo (as Terrence spelled with an 'e.' A separate entry in the Board of Elections has contributions at the same address under Terrance with an "a" listing $8,500 to other candidates and officials). Murray's wife Suzanne is down as having given over $12,000 in political contributions, including $3,000 to Raimondo. 

Lobbyist Bob Goldberg, whose hourly billing rate is $375 an hour for the PawSox group, is recorded as having given over $75,000 in campaign contributions since 2002; records show communications consultant Patti Doyle has doled out over $30,000.

Common Cause on the Record

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Phil West

"Campaign contributions are a cost of doing business for professional lobbyists," said West. "The dates of legislative fundraisers rise and fall along a bell curve that peaks between March and June, precisely when most bills pass or die. When I served at Common Cause, my mail typically brought two or three invitations each week — fundraising requests apparently sent to all registered lobbyists."

"Commercial lobbyists are typically well-compensated attorneys who lobby on contract for corporations, trade associations, or unions," continued West. "Former Senate Minority Leader Robert D. Goldberg reports making $10,000 a month from GTECH, $8,333 from CVS, and $4,000 from Johnson & Wales, among others. Former Speaker William J. Murphy reports $80,000 annual compensation from Anheuser-Busch, $50,000 annual from Advance America Cash Advance, and $10,000 a month from UTGR, the corporation that runs Twin River Casino, among others. A relatively small group of commercial lobbyists typically earn six figures during the legislative session, and attend lots of fundraising events."

"By contrast, there are hundreds of nonprofit lobbyists, like the ACLU’s Steve Brown, Common Cause’s John Marion, and the Economic Progress Institute’s Kate Brewster, who work for a fraction as much and can’t afford to go to fundraisers. Many citizens’ advocacy groups are nonpartisan and nonprofit. Their policies prohibit staff members from contributing to candidates," said West. "I think California's Speaker Jesse Unruh put it best back in 1966—long before Citizens United v. FEC and several other U.S. Supreme Court decisions decimated campaign finance limits—when he said, 'Money is the mother’s milk of politics."

West said he believed the question of a new stadium being built in Providence shouldn't lie with the General Assembly. 

"The stadium could be--and should be--presented to the voters as a ballot question. At every election, voters decide key questions about state debt. In 2010, they approved bond questions for higher education facilities, transportation, and open space. In 2012, the people backed bonds for clean water, environmental management, capital improvements, and the Veterans’ Home," said West. "Why risk another 38 Studios debacle? Let the General Assembly calculate the costs and lay them out. Then let the voters decide—up or down—on a ballot question."


Related Slideshow: Leaders React to PawSox Owners’ Providence Stadium Proposal

The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox presented their vision for a new $85 million stadium in Providence -- including a lease agreement from the state that would require the owners be paid $4 million a year for the thirty year duration.

Now, elected officials and business leaders are weighing in on the initial proposal by the ownership group -- see below.  

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Gary Sasse

Former Rhode Island Director of Administration, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University

"A minor league ballpark may not be an economic game changer. Thus it's cost and benefits must evaluate environmental, cultural, social and economic factors. The key point is any stadium should be consistent with the overall strategic development of Providence. This story has not been told yet."

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Edward Mazze

University of Rhode Island Distinguished Professor of Business

"I would like to see the PawSox stay in Rhode Island. I do not think Rhode Islanders should pay for a new stadium for the next several decades or see Providence not collect taxes that could make it to a better city.....with better schools, lower property taxes and a lower automobile tax. To support the current proposal, there has to be tax payments to Providence, a financial deal with Pawtucket by the owners or the state to deal with the empty stadium and the owners paying for the new stadium with little in the way of state government assistance.

If there is state government financing assistance, there must be a guarantee that the team would not leave the state for the length of time of the financing. It would be interesting if the owners would consider selling "seat licenses" as a way of raising funds to build the stadium. This would be a real market test as to whether or not there is a need for a new stadium."

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Monique Chartier

Spokesperson, RI Taxpayers

"The Paw Sox owners have asked the City of Providence for a waiver of property taxes.  But the last thing that Providence needs is to remove yet another property from tax rolls.  City Council President Luis Aponte's request that state taxpayers make up lost property taxes is understandable but out of the question, especially in light of the state's own very serious budget deficits.

Governor Raimondo has correctly pointed out that the state has very limited resources to invest in economic growth.  These limited resources cannot go to develop prime public land into a very seasonal use that will have minimal impact on the economy at a substantial cost to local and state taxpayers.  Our state leaders must say no to this project and return to the vitally important work of helping ALL businesses, not just one, by improving the state's tax and regulatory climate.  We as a state can consider whether to participate in the luxury of a sports stadium as soon as our economy is healthy again."

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Pam Gencarella

Spokesperson, OSTPA

"If Skeffington and his very wealthy partners want the PawSox in Providence then they should put an offer on the table that covers all of the costs to make it happen. They must provide revenue to the state for the land that they want to develop, and property tax revenue on its full value to the capitol city."

Pictured: James Skeffington

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Mike Stenhouse

CEO, RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity

If the team is seeking taxpayer dollars, then taxpayers should get something in return, whether a share of equity or a slice of team revenues. For example, the federal government received equity for its investment in GM, while the Green Bay Packers are owned by citizen shareholders. It's not beyond possibility; let's find a way to make it happen."

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Terrence Hassett

Senior Deputy Majority Leader, Providence City Council

"I believe the stadium is beneficial to Providence and the state. The parking capacity must be resolved in favor of the stadiums' fans that is fair and reasonable. What events and other uses are not being presented which I find troublesome. A stadium is a great venue for families, colleagues and generally, baseball fans to enjoy. A $120 million commitment from state taxpayers is a large role asked of them wherein the return on the participation is not convincing to date."

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Aaron Regunberg

Rhode Island State Representative, (D-Dist 4, Providence)

"For me to support a deal, that $120 million figure needs to come down dramatically, and a strong community benefits agreement needs to be reached. I also think it would be reasonable - if the state is making a significant public investment in the project - to see the state receive a portion of the profits from the stadium."

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Laurie White

President, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

"It is still in the early innings. The chamber was briefed on the proposal on Friday and we expect that it is subject to change. Conceptually, it is very exciting. Awaiting further details."

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Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island Governor

"The PawSox are an important institution in Rhode Island and our goal is to keep them in the state," said Raimondo. "The idea of a stadium in downtown Providence that can be used for multiple purposes is exciting. That said, my top priority is getting Rhode Islanders back to work, and we have very limited resources to invest in economic growth - especially in the face of a large structural deficit. I am committed to working with Mayor Elorza, the Speaker, and the Senate President to evaluate whether this project is in the best interest of Rhode Island, and whether we can afford it."

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Stefan Pryor

Rhode Island Commerce Secretary

"We hope and aim to keep this treasured team in Rhode Island. The project has the potential to enhance the vitality of a key district within our capital city. At the same time, this proposal involves a significant request for public resources. In collaboration with the City of Providence and the General Assembly, we will review this proposal in order to determine whether it makes financial sense and whether it will help catalyze the I-195 corridor." 

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Nicholas Mattiello

Rhode Island Speaker of the House of Representatives

"We have not received a written legislative proposal yet, but when we do, it will be thoroughly analyzed.  I will be talking to my House colleagues and I will gauge public opinion before making any assessment on the direction the state should move in."

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Teresa Paiva Weed

Rhode Island Senate President

"The proposal that has been presented by the new owners of the Paw Sox to build a professional ballpark in Providence potentially represents a significant investment in Rhode Island. The proposal will be fully analyzed by the full Senate in a thorough and transparent process.”

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Jorge Elorza

Mayor, City of Providence

“The prospect of keeping the Red Sox’ Triple A team in Rhode Island represents a significant and exciting development opportunity for our city and state. We have coordinated to develop guidelines that ensure a thorough analysis of the stadium proposal.  As Mayor, I am committed to continue working in close coordination with Governor Raimondo, Council President Aponte, our leaders in the General Assembly and the I-195 Commission as we move forward to make Providence and Rhode Island a better place to work, live and do business in the long term."

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Luis Aponte

Providence City Council President

“The stadium has the potential to be catalytic and transformative in the way residents and visitors experience Downtown Providence. With the promise of drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators annually to the city, the stadium could help spur development of the nearby I-195 parcels, and generate additional revenue for the city and the state. We are committed to working with the Governor, the General Assembly, and the developers to ensure the project aligns with our goals and vision for the city, and that it is a good investment of our resources.”

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Donald Grebien

Mayor of Pawtucket 

"Perhaps the state should consider buying the franchise and reinvest in Pawtucket. It would be more cost effective and the state would have ownership at the end of the deal," said Grebien Communications Officer Rico Vota.  "The Mayor has received many calls, emails and postings from fans throughout the state that do not support this current proposal. He is very careful to make sure that his decision is not solely based on the fact that he represents Pawtucket who would loose this valuable, historic ballpark. As someone who comes from the private sector, this deal only makes sense for the new business group and not the state of Rhode Island in its current structure."


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