May 17, 2006

Chafee Campaign Files FEC Complaint

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Projo’s 7-to-7 blog, Lincoln Chafee’s campaign has filed a formal Federal Elections Commission complaint against Steve Laffey’s camapaign…

In a letter sent to the FEC today, Chafee's camp complained about a few specific moves, including circumstances surrounding Vincent Indeglia’s letter to his employees at American Labor Services, Inc; possible misrepresentation of mailing related expenditures in FEC filings; and a failure to identify the Club for Growth as the conduit for more than $200,000 in donations…

Laffey, through a spokeswoman, dismissed the complaint.

"Senator Chafee’s complaints are completely baseless and frivolous, and one of the last gasps of a desperate campaign of a Washington insider," Laffey said.

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This is a national race and violations of campaign finance law are going to be an issue. This is not a sign of desperation, but rather has become the norm in American politics since McCain-Feingold.

If the allegations are unfounded, Laffey will come out looking good and can play it to his advantage.

If the allegations are founded in truth, it will shatter any remaining thoughts that Laffey is a reformer independent of special interests.

A gamble on Chafee's part. Anyone taking bets on how it will turn out?

Posted by: Anthony at May 17, 2006 7:29 PM

Nice try Anthony, but a very weak defense of your guy Chafee.

An incumbent who holds a position of strength sets the agenda, talks about issues and touts accomplishments.

Senator Chafee refuses to debate Mayor Laffey on the issues that affect Rhode Islanders.

Senator Chafee offers no solutions to the problems that impact working families in Rhode Island.

Senator Chafee very rarely speaks on the Senate floor on behalf of Rhode Islanders.

Senator Chafee sponsors no meaningful legislation on behalf of Rhode Islanders.

Senator Chafee represents what is wrong in Washington D.C.

Senator Chafee has nothing to offer and he offers no reason for anyone to vote for him.

Therefore he resorts to desperate, negative attacks in order to distract voters from the fact that he has no record, no accomplishments and no plans to change his tax-and-spend agenda.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at May 17, 2006 8:25 PM

Yea - and that misguided and disreputable Mr Laffey actually traded a few oil stocks in his life, has the temerity to drive an SUV, and gave Jesse Jackson jr $200. Bring on Ken Starr. Oh yea, I forgot, he also raised taxes per his campaign promise and saved Cranston from bankruptcy. Oops, one more horrid item - that speeding cam imbroglio. That about completes the summation of the Chafee bunker's attempts to paint Laffey negatively. I will let their arguments destruct on their own merits.

Posted by: Bountyhunter at May 17, 2006 8:51 PM

Matt Brown once responded to FEC violations in the same way that Steve Laffey is now responding. My bet, Steve Laffey is headed in the same direction. Anyone who has to hide where money is coming from is hiding a lot more.

Posted by: Max at May 17, 2006 9:40 PM

What you will find, if you observe honestly, is that Laffey hides nothing, because he has nothing to hide.

That is the part about Laffey that drives career politicians crazy. All the crooks in Cranston expected him to keep all the deals in the back room. Instead he filled auditoriums and exposed the truth!

Look out Washington, clean government is coming...whether you like it or not!

Posted by: roadrunner at May 17, 2006 10:06 PM

Stretch & Max,
Time will tell. I agree with Charlie Bakst's comment the other day when he said that nobody outside of Laffey's camp thinks he can really win a general election. I've gotten the same impression from my conversations with all but the most hardcore Laffey supporters. Still, while this discussion may be academic, it's also entertaining.

What is the penalty if Laffey is found guilty of violating the law? Max, I don't think Laffey has a choice about how to handle this issue. He can't afford to give the money back and can't afford to admit that he did something illegal. He has to minimize it somehow.

Posted by: Anthony at May 17, 2006 10:18 PM

What I find interesting is that these complaints are typically filed by parties, not candidates themselves. However, these charges are so weak and laughable, even the NRSC - never mind the NRC - refused to file them. That left who - Ian "Heineken" Lang? (Nobody ever accused him of not drinking enough)
These complaints actually show how dumb Chafee's people are. For one, the Indeglia charges could perhaps be brought against Indeglia, but Laffey had nothing to do with what Indeglia did.
The mailing expenditures issue clearly illustrates why Chafee has got to go. He has no idea about the cash method of accounting and how it works - no wonder the dope can't get how tax cuts work.
On Laffey's filings you see every contribution made to his campaign listed. The thing you don't see is the big PAC contributions, though - those are in Chafee's filings, and that is just one more reason to get rid of him.

Posted by: Kramer at May 17, 2006 10:39 PM

Wow, Roadrunner, were those talking points just fedexed over to you from Laffey headquarters? You can't talk your way around the fact that something fishey is going on here. With all of the RNC people behind Chafee they never would have gone ahead with filing a complaint if there wasn't some merit to it, after all it was the RNC who filed the Matt Brown complaint.

Posted by: max at May 17, 2006 10:42 PM

Kramer, I am sure that the Nation Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a lot to say about politics, but it is true that they probably would not have become involved in this one. What you should remember is that Chafee is backed by the RNC and there is no doubt that the Chafee people would have talked to the legal teams before filing a formal complaint. Nice try though.

Posted by: Max at May 17, 2006 10:56 PM

You're a little lax on the facts, Max.

You just said, it was the RNC that filed the charges against Brown. But they didn't here. Care to guess why?

Posted by: Kramer at May 17, 2006 11:13 PM

I wonder if this has anything to do with legal standing. Only an injured party with standing can file a claim in a civil suit.

Matt Brown's activities involved state parties, while Laffey's activities involve only the candidate.

My guess is that the RNC didn't have standing to file the complaint as they were not "injured". I'm assuming that only Laffey's opponents (Chafee, Whitehouse, Sheeler) had the ability to file this complaint. Maybe someone else can shed light on this?

I tend to agree with you, Max. In a race with such implications, it would be strange for Chafee not to run the complaint by the RNC and NRSC first, if only because this may have national implications on how Club for Growth does business.

And Max, get used to roadrunner spouting Laffey campaign sound bites like the "Look out Washington, clean government is coming..." line. After awhile you'll get used to it and pay attention to the people who are posting comment containing original thought.

Hey, maybe they should change the phrase to "Look out Washington, clean government is coming, whether you like it or not...well, just as soon as we settle these insignificant ethics issues with the FEC!"

Posted by: Anthony at May 18, 2006 12:02 AM

I did a little background research and from I what I could gather, any person can file a complaint, not just an injured party.

Also, we'll know very soon what the FEC thinks.

If the Chafee complaint doesn't meet the initial filing requirements, it will be kicked back to the Chafee campaign within 5 days. Once a proper complaint is filed, Laffey will have 15 days to respond.

After the FEC hears from both sides it makes a decision whether to pursue the complaint given the agency's "limited resources". Thus, even if Laffey violated the law, the FEC may still drop the complaint if it feels that the violations are not serious enough.

According to the FEC, there is a standard set of objective criteria used to determine whether the complaint should move forward or not, but I couldn't find the criteria listed anywhere.

If the complaint is accepted, it gets assigned to an FEC lawyer who provides a recommendation to the commissioners as to whether or not an investigation should procede or not. The commissioners then vote as to whether they "have reason to believe" that a violation occurred.

If 4 commissioners vote "yes", the complaint is forwarded for investigation and investigators subpoena witnesses, order the production of documents, etc.

If the commissioners vote "no", then the complaint is dismissed.

It sounds like there are alot of opportunities for a complaint to get dismissed, which should help Laffey.

There are a bunch of things that can happen after the investigation, but I won't go into them at this point.

Posted by: Anthony at May 18, 2006 12:29 AM

Can't really say I'm surprised, but then again, why should I be where Chafee's handlers are concerned.

Filing paperwork in the court system that's going nowhere fast during an election cycle is tantamount to admitting that the Laffey folks have them running for their political lives. It kind of comes off as a desperate move by the Chafee campaign, but I'm hardly the only one who noticed that. Perhaps they look desperate, because they ARE desperate -- they certainly aren't overflowing with principled ideas.

The American Labor Services thing is completely baseless. I'm really surprised that the Chafee folks would even bring that up again. It was a small, if entirely meaningless blip on the radar. If anything, a complaint should have been filed against ALS; not the Laffey campaign. They had no foreknowledge of what was going on there, nor if they had, would have condoned it.

Based on current campaign finance law, Club for Growth has nothing to worry about. It's a mosquito bite.

As for "Max," the two big differences between Brown and Laffey are these: Laffey isn't trying to hide from the cameras; he's been seeking them out (Chafee's been trying to hide from Mayor Laffey though). Secondly, what Matt Brown was doing was a form of (likely legal) money laundering. What Club for Growth does is called bundling. It's entirely legal and extremely effective, which is why the Chafee folks are running scared.

If anything, this bonehead move by the Chafee campaign will tend to spur his opponents to work even harder and to give more to Mayor Laffey, because Chafee clearly sees him for the threat that he is to his political "career."

Posted by: Will at May 18, 2006 12:44 AM

Dear Anthony,

What's really interesting here is as follows:

1. Do the Chaffee folks not believe the recent poll?

2. Do the Chaffee folks ignore where the Laffeey advertising is headed?

3. Do the Chaffee folks realize that this opens a huge glass houses opportunity?

4. Do the Chaffee folks realize that the best they can hope for, even if the ALS play is deemed out of bounds, is market value plus a very small fine?

Once again, it seems like nobody wants to win this campaign.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at May 18, 2006 6:00 AM

In view of the frivolous nature of these charges, this appears to be nothing more than a stinkbomb hurled by Chafee's camp, knowing that it would never be concluded by the FEC before the primary anyway.
That smacks of a desperate move by a desperate candidate.

Posted by: Jim at May 18, 2006 6:12 AM

This strikes me as a not-very-astute bit of politicking. It smacks of tattling to the teacher.

I'm not sold on Laffey yet, but my dislike of Chafee is approaching visceral (what would that be? Esophageal?). I don't think I can bear to pull the lever for this man if he makes it to the general election.

Posted by: ballottra at May 18, 2006 8:12 AM

"The Letter" - so if I follow Chafee's muddled logic, I should be able to write a letter to my employees telling them to vote for Chafee or the sky will turn green, and then turn around and file a complaint with the FEC against the Chafee campaign...sweet!

"The Invoice" - I'll keep this simple for the Chafee invoice = no liability = no reporting as such.

"The Mailbag" - It took me all of 3 minutes to learn that the conduit - not the candidate - is responsible for reporting "bundled" contributions. In fact, Laffey goes above and beyond the FEC requirements by identifying every individual contributor's name - no matter how small.

Why do the Chafee people have such a hard time with this simple stuff?

Oh, I know, it's because their candidate is tanking and they have nothing of substance to provide.

The argument of "Sure, Chafee voted against his own President, against Alito, against tax cuts, against lowering gas prices and for pork, but he's fascinated by government and enjoys a bit of schadenfreude now and again" is not resonating with primary voters.

Posted by: oz at May 18, 2006 9:07 AM

Hey, did you guys notice that Chafee himself refused to come on the airwaves and discuss this stuff?? None of the news footage last night on either tv or radio had a direct quote from the Senator. As per usual, he hides behind his boy Lang and refuses to come out of the shadows. Makes him look weak

Posted by: Franklin Stubbs at May 18, 2006 10:09 AM

That was the word I was trying to think of last night: "schadenfreude"! The other one was another term for self-sadism, but I'll keep with the other word.

I find myself agreeing with Bobby from Dem HQ over there. If Chafee's folks actually believe their own propaganda, just what are they so afraid of, that they now go and do this? My guess is PLENTY!

Posted by: Will at May 18, 2006 11:50 AM

Hey Anthony,

Aside from the many times I and others have presented the overwhelming evidence that Laffey has a plan, ideas, guts, a track record and a squeaky clean record, and that Chafee has none of the above...

in between your tiring and pathetic attempts to spin every situation to polish every turd your candidate steps in...

I just like to bust your b*^^s. Thanks for letting me know its working :)

Posted by: roadrunner at May 18, 2006 2:41 PM

Max, you sound like one of the three "Students for Chafee", so you're probably just getting out of bed.

What can you contribute to suggest to others here that Chafee is not running scared.

Where and when has Senator Chafee demonstrated he is willing to engage Mayor Laffey on the issues?

Aside from the desparate, distorted, negative, personal attacks, what have Messrs Chafee and Lang contributed to the debate?

Oh! I said debate! Didn't mean to fighten anyone...

Posted by: Warbucks at May 18, 2006 2:52 PM

Btw, it's worth noting that Chafee busting on Laffey for not submitting expenses that his campaign hasn't paid yet is in direct conflict with the Chafee "PAYGO" philosophy.

Posted by: Colin Pachios at May 18, 2006 3:06 PM

Chafee has no idea how to campaign. He can't or won't fight. He hides behind his surrogates and henchmen. Does he think the people are blind or stupid.

I think that's exactly what he and his minions think.


J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at May 18, 2006 7:39 PM


At the end of the day where is Chafee? He's nowhere to be found, seen or heard.

For Laffey this is just another opportunity to prove what a totally up front and honest guys he really is. Chafee needs to think through these things a little better.

Chafee is ancient history. He has done nothing, said nothing, and planned nothing. Bottom line: what you see is what you get.

Face it. He's bad for RI and bad for the country, not for what he does (weirdness at best) but for what he doesn't do… anything.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at May 18, 2006 7:52 PM