NEW: Block, Fung Spar Over Taxes, Ohio

Thursday, August 14, 2014


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The Rhode Island Republican gubernatorial campaigns are trading shots over taxes -- and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's TV ad shot in Ohio -- with the primary three and half weeks away. 

On Thursday, the Fung campaign issued a statement criticizing opponent Ken Block's "proposed tax increase on small business" following their joint appearance at an agriculture and food industry forum on Wednesday.  The Fung campaign stated that "Block’s promise of support for businesses hypocritical given unemployment tax increase proposal."

The Block camp fired back - and went on the offensive -- following Fung's release on the tax issue.

“Allan Fung has no clue what he is talking about,” said Block. “This is pathetic attempt to distort the facts and shift attention away from his misguided decision to film a commercial in Ohio that supposedly highlights Rhode Island businesses.”

Fung Hits Block on Taxes

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Allan Fung

Fung issued a release Thursday stating that Block was "promoting a tax increase on businesses that depend on seasonal employees, which are common in the tourism, agriculture and restaurant industries," following an industry forum on August 14 to discuss ways to promote food and agriculture related business in Rhode Island.

“I grew up working after school and weekends bussing tables and washing dishes in my parents’ restaurant,” noted Fung, “and I understand the struggles facing these small business owners.  It is hypocritical and unconscionable for Ken Block to appear before an industry group and claim to support their efforts when the centerpiece of his campaign includes a tax increase on those same businesses for unemployment insurance.  I have a proven record of standing up for taxpayers.  We have had three straight years without a tax increase in the City of Cranston because I know how to protect taxpayers and make government more efficient.  Mr. Block, however, would threaten small businesses with higher taxes and that is just wrong.”

“I find it shocking that Mr. Block would propose a tax increase on any industry,” continued Fung.  “I have a plan to reduce taxes on Rhode Island businesses to make our state one of the most business friendly in the northeast, while Mr. Block would drive agriculture, construction, tourism and other season business out of the state.  The aim of government should be to help all industries and not to pick the winners and losers.  I have a proven record of reform.  We stabilized finances and went three years without a tax increase and brought 1,000 new jobs to the City of Cranston.  As Governor, I will do the same for the State of Rhode Island."

Block Responds

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Ken Block

“Allan Fung is defending the worst ranked unemployment insurance system in the United States. He is defending the status quo, where non-seasonal employers are disadvantaged and forced to subsidize the payrolls of companies that abuse the program," said Block.  "This is anti-business, and it’s surprising to hear from a Republican.”

“When we fix the unemployment insurance system, we will bring down taxes for the vast majority of businesses, and we will make Rhode Island a more competitive place to do business,” said Block. “Allan is either confused or intentionally pandering to companies that abuse unemployment insurance and drive up costs for everyone else.”

Block reiterated his support for unemployment insurance reform.

“It is ridiculous for Allan Fung to claim that unemployment insurance reform is a tax increase,” said Block. “This is a smart pro-business reform, but Allan would rather pander for votes than take the steps necessary to improve Rhode Island’s economy. That’s what insiders like Allan Fung do - they avoid difficult decisions to prolong their own political careers. Rhode Islanders are sick of it.”

On Thursday, the Block campaign issued a statement on Fung backing out of the State of the State debate that was scheduled to be taped Thursday evening.

“This debate was scheduled weeks ago and we were informed at the last minute that it has been canceled because Mayor Fung is traveling,” said Block campaign spokesperson Jeff Britt.  “Is he going back to Ohio to film another Rhode Island is open for business television commercial?”

Fung filmed a commercial at Tommy’s Diner in Columbus, Ohio.  The commercial focused on the Mayor’s message of Rhode Island being open for business.

“Nothing exemplifies the old way of doing business than producing your television ad in your media firm’s back yard in Ohio, while talking about generating business opportunity for Rhode Island,” said Britt.  “Of course, this is the same insider candidate who took money from police unions while negotiating their contract as Mayor of Cranston and didn’t see why people got upset.  Mayor Fung who himself is a former lobbyist, is so deeply politically entrenched that he has become part of the problem and not the solution Rhode Islanders need as Governor.”


Related Slideshow: Win-Loss Records for 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates’ Campaign Managers

Oftentimes operating largely behind the scenes, a candidate's campaign manager or consultant plays an instrumental role in the outcome of the race.  

The 2014 Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidates have assembled their campaign teams -- and managers, all of whom bring extensive political operative experience to the table.  

Below is a look at the "batting average" of past efforts of the current set of top operatives when they were at the helm of other political races.  

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Eric Hyers - Campaign Manager, Gina Raimondo

Congressman David Cicilline's 2010 Campaign:  WON

Congressman David Cicilline's 2012 Campaign: WON

NJ State Senator Nia Gill's 2013 Campaign: WON

MA State Sen. Karen Spilka 2013 Congressional Campaign:  LOST

Winning Percentage: .750

Hyers, who cut his teeth organizing for for now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand when she first ran for Congress in 2006, worked as a field organizer for John Edwards for President in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, directed a statewide field operation in Wyoming, managed state legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey, and served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Democratic Party. 

Hyers scored big while managing campaigns in New Jersey and Rhode Island, but came up short most recently in Massachusetts.  

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Danny Kedem - Campaign Manager, Angel Taveras

Anthony Wiener's 2013 New York Mayoral Campaign:  QUIT

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's 2011 Campaign:  WON

Winning Percentage: .500

Kedem joined Wiener's political comeback bid after Weiner had resigned from Congress in a sexting scandal -- only to leave when Wiener once more was caught continuing the habit, spelling his downfall once again.  

Connecticut Magazine's Jennifer Swift delineated Kedem's campaign history as having successful managed a New Haven mayoral bid, as well as outlining Kedem's early days organizing for Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate campaign and Hillary Clinton's 2008 run for the presidency.

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Jeff Britt -- Campaign Consultant, Ken Block

2002 Bruce Bayuk RI General Assembly Write-In Campaign: LOST

2006 RI Governor Donald Carcieri Campaign:  WON

2012 Mark Binder RI General Assembly Campaign: LOST

Winning Percentage: .333

Seasoned political operative Britt lost close races in Bayuk and Binder, but scored big with Carcieri while working alongside Ken McKay.  Following the Bayuk effort, Britt served in the "Carcieri 1" administration to work across the aisle and support GOP efforts statewide.  

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Patrick Sweeney -- Campaign Consultant, Allan Fung

2010 John Loughlin Congressional Campaign: LOST

2012 Barry Hinckley Senate Campaign: LOST

Winning Percentage: .000

The former Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party has extensive campaign and consulting experience, but is still looking to win big spearheading a major candidate effort.  

Sweeney was Deputy Campaign Manager for Loughlin in 2010.  

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Devin Driscoll -- Campaign Manager, Clay Pell

Northeast Regional Director, Organizing for Action

Communications Director, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage

Winning Percentage:  N/A

Driscoll has headed up successful grassroots efforts and served on the Obama for America campaign in two separate stints, as Rhode Island state director for the 2012 campaign and as a field organizer in 2008.  Managing Pell's run for Governor marks Driscoll's first bid to win a statewide office campaign.  


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