May 19, 2006

Senator Chafee's FEC Complaint Against Mayor Laffey: A Bundle of Information About Bundling

Carroll Andrew Morse

The most recent press release issued by the Chafee campaign concerning their Federal Election Commission complaint against the Laffey campaign may leave people with two mistaken impressions...

In an interview with News Channel 12, Mayor Steve Laffey has admitted that his campaign never reported the approximately $300,000 it received from the Club for Growth in its Federal Election Commission forms, a direct violation of FEC law.

Mayor Laffey initially characterized the formal complaint as filled with “frivolous and baseless charges.” When asked by News Channel 12, however, Laffey freely admitted that the special interest group, the Club for Growth, appears nowhere in his FEC filing. Laffey responded to questions about whether or not the campaign had reported that the Club for Growth had bundled the approximately $300,000 in campaign contributions by stating “no we didn’t, nor did we think we’d have to.”

One mistaken impression is that the FEC complaint concerns contributions made by the Club for Growth and not by individual donors. The other mistaken impression is that the Laffey campaign failed to report the receipt of a large sum of money to the FEC.

What Mayor Laffey is trying to explain in the second paragraph is that his campaign did report receiving the contributions, but did not report that they were “bundled”. What, you ask, does that mean?

Sources familiar with various points of the fundraising chain explain “bundling” as follows. The Club for Growth collects checks made out directly to the Laffey campaign, literally places them into a “bundle” (like a Federal Express package) and mails them to Laffey headquarters. The Laffey campaign makes an appropriate campaign finance filing for each individual donation in the bundle and counts the amount of each donaiton against the contribution limit of the individual who made it.

Campaign finance law is explicit about how bundled contributions are to be treated…

Anyone who receives and forwards an earmarked contribution to a candidate committee is considered a conduit or intermediary…

Individuals, political committees, unregistered committees and partnerships may act as conduits for earmarked contributions…

An earmarked contribution is considered to have been made by the original contributor, thus counting against his or her contribution limit with respect to the recipient candidate. The conduit’s own contribution limit is normally not affected unless the conduit exercises direction or control over the contributor’s choice of recipient candidate

The conduit must forward an earmarked contribution to the recipient authorized committee within 10 days. The conduit’s report to the recipient (described below) must be forwarded along with the contribution…

An earmarked contribution must be reported by both the conduit (political committee or unregistered entity) and the recipient authorized committee.

What the Laffey campaign apparently has not been doing, which it is legally required to do, is the last item -- making a record of which of its donations have arrived in bundled packages.

But if the Laffey campaign has been diligently recording the appropriate information about all of the individual donations that comprise the bundles, then this is not a Matt Brown-type attempt to circumvent campaign finance limits by tapping donors multiple times in excess of what they are legally allowed to give. The contributions involved in the Chafee complaint are 1) from individuals who want to give money to the Laffey campaign, 2) from individuals who are giving money directly to the Laffey campaign and not through some network of PAC or party committee intermediate accounts and 3) from individuals who have not maxed out for the year on what they are allowed to give to the Laffey campaign.

If the Chafee campaign is alleging that there is money from unaccounted sources in the Laffey campaign account, they need to clarify that point.

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Did anyone see the report on TV12 the other night. Laffey says come over right now and look at everything. Chafee henchman, Ian Lang (Chafee is nowhere to be seen-just like he is in DC), looks like a deer caught in the headlights trying to make it all look bad when in fact it’s not.

This is all such a tempest in a tea pot. Nobody cares about this stuff. It’s just another opportunity for Laffey to get his message out and for Chafee to look... well sloppy.

Rhode Islanders are not simpletons. Chafee is doing things weak candidates do not incumbents. We need a fighter in DC from Rhode Island, not a go-along insider from Virginia.

Go Laffey!

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at May 19, 2006 2:44 PM

Chafee is doing what any person running for office does if their opponent breaks the law---making sure the public knows.

There are still several unanswered questions about the American Labor letter, CFG contributions and so on.

Rhode Islanders have the right to know if Laffey broke the law and then to decide whether or not they think it is important.

Posted by: Anthony at May 19, 2006 5:02 PM

This isn't muchado about nothing, if the charges are legit.

Anthony put it best, one would be dumb not to check an opponent's filings for errors.

Hopefully, this will amount to a hill of beans and not be similar to the Matt Brown situation.

Posted by: don roach at May 19, 2006 6:11 PM

Anyone who says Matt Brown and Steve Laffey in the same context is either from another planet or has been sleeping for the last few years. The only thing they do alike is breath, after that the comparison ends.

I'm no expert but the laws, I would think, are designed to keep people from cheating. It will become obvious that Laffey hasn't cheated. It seems the letter of the law calls for declaring bundled checks as bundled, even though they are individual donors who have written checks to Laffey US Senate. Laffey has in fact reported every check and every donor.

Botton Line: This low blow will just be another brick in Laffey's road to DC.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at May 19, 2006 8:57 PM

Definition of Low Blow: encouraging Michaud to run against Carcieri and Laffey to run against Chafee just because you weren't supported by Chafee in your gubernatorial race against Carcieri.

But hey, Laffey will bring clean government to DC and Michaud will drive Rhode Island's economy forward, right?

You can keep pushing that fertilizer, but as the polls show, Rhode Islanders aren't buying.

Posted by: Anthony at May 20, 2006 8:36 PM

Keep hoping something sticks on this guy. Next thing you know Laffey will be assailed by Linc, Ian and the Projo front page for the wrong zip code on the address of his campaign HQ.

Get a grip on the real issues and get beyond the notorious RI provincialism RI is known for - that is, a bunch of ignorant losers who are afraid of change because of what it forces you to do - getting off your lazy union butts, working for a rightful living, and having an individual thought.


Anthony, are you listening?

Posted by: Tim2 at May 20, 2006 11:26 PM

The FEC filing has nothing to do with "fact finding" -- it's a pure political stunt; not particularly original; and an attempt to create something out of nothing.

Might I remind you that Mr. Michaud referred to HIMSELF only a few days ago as a "Chafee Republican" -- and was at Chafee's Biltmore fundraiser? I wonder, did Linc cash his check, or was he comped? Hmmm?

Laffey and Michaud have nothing in common. Laffey is for reform and change from the status quo; Michaud is Gary Reilly without the charm and charisma. He's for Beacon Mutual, Guy Dufault, an overpaid and unaccountable bureaucracy, drowning crippled kittens, and all things unholy, etc. ;)

If anything, the overlap of potential Republican Primary voters is likely to be far greater with Carcieri and Laffey, than with Carcieri and Chafee. The more (actual, real) Republicans vote in the Republican Primary, the better it is for Republicans; not RINOs.

Despite the governor's tepid support of the incumbent junior senator, I know to near metaphysical certitude, that the governor doesn't care which one of them wins the primary. As I recall, he initally stated that he wanted to remain "neutral" -- that is until the Senator's handlers called his office, to urge him to reconsider that for his own good. His concern, understandably, is retaining the seat for the GOP, as well as his own position.

Unfortunately, at present, much of what qualifies as the state GOP apparatus are still holdovers from the days of the late Sen. Chafee -- so some lip-service must be paid to them, until they "lose" their relevance. One way or another, change is coming in November. My only concern at this point, is to do it in the most politically advantageous way for the longterm. That is to get a real Republican into office, who is committed to building a viable opposition party, so we can have a real two-party democracy in this state ... and the man to do that is not Linc Chafee.

Posted by: Will at May 21, 2006 3:40 AM

Dear Will,

For the record, on or about 1 April, Michaud contacted the Chaffee Office looking for support. Since the Governor had already agreed to endorse the Senator, he was politely refused.

There is one "political overlap" that no one can ignore and that is Mr. Bennett's activity. It would seem that both Senatorial candidates have Lieutenants making moves against the Governor.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at May 21, 2006 9:11 AM

You are right when you say that Michaud is philosophically more like Chafee than Carcieri. But Michaud's candidacy, like Laffey's, is less about ideology and more about promoting his own self-interest.

You choose to support Laffey because you believe in his positions. I oppose Laffey because I think he'll cost the GOP a Senate seat and deep down I think Laffey knows it. He's more concerned about promoting himself than keeping Republican control of the legislative branch.

As with Laffey, there will be those voters who agree with Michaud's philosophies and will vote for him because of it. But most Republicans will see through the facade and recognize that he is running out of pure self-interest and opportunity.

Will, I believe you think that Laffey is a good candidate who holds the right views and can get elected. But don't be blind to the reality.

There is a fairly significant group of others who want Laffey to win so that they can once again get access to jobs, appointments and contracts. I have to think for all of five seconds before I know who the next RI federal judge will be should Laffey get elected. Same for US attorney. Farm bureau? I'm not quite so sure, but I imagine there is someone in line.

Yet another group supports Laffey thinking he can't win, but they want to send a message to Chafee and Carcieri.

In a state the size of RI, sometimes the lines aren't drawn up over issues as you suggest, but rather over personalities and past personal encounters.

That is why the same people who encouraged Laffey to run are now encouraging Michaud to run. For them, it's not about issues, it's about re-gaining insider status using a message of so-called "reform".

The Governor's support of Chafee is anything but tepid. As I understand it, he originally stayed neutral because he thought it was his role as Governor to do so (as Chafee had done in his race). I highly doubt it took much persuading for him to endorse Chafee when he understood that he had the ability to do so.

Posted by: Anthony at May 21, 2006 9:15 AM


Once again your commentary is spot on. You have this so called Rhode Island Republican party figured out quite nicely. The only thing I would add is to remind all how Laffey was much more interested in running for governor but did not think he could beat Carcieri so he picked the big stage race he thought he could win, the Senate.
Here is the big picture problem for Laffey and his political future. People like you and me are the very people Laffey desperately needs votes from if he's to win statewide. He and his followers may be successful in wounding Carcieri enough in the primary to cost him the general election but here's Laffey's longterm problem. Long after Don Carcieri is retired and watching his grandkids grow up people like you and me and media people like Jim Baron and Dan Yorke will still have Laffey's number and will not forget what his game has always been about, i.e. himself, his megalomania and his personal ambitions.
Steve Laffey's political career will be very short lived. His ego will not allow him to run for the lesser positions which he could win and his personality will prevent him from winning the plum political seats.
One last observation. Didn't Laffey, Bennett and DePetro all grow up together in Cranston?
There are more double agents in the RI Republican party than the old KGB. lol
It's no wonder that party never grows.
It's no wonder why I have absolutely no desire to join them.

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2006 10:28 AM

Anthony is getting so unhappy these days.

Michaud is Garry Reilly with a tie and a degree. He will go nowhere, Carcieri will win. I haven't heard a Republican who supports Michaud except maybe Levesque, the Harrah's lobbyist.

Now this FEC Complaint is one big joke from the Chafee shop. First, nothing will happen before the election. Second, the allegations are ridiculous. At best for Chafee, Laffey reported all the contributions but may failed to report the specific checks he got in bundles from the Club for Growth. Hmm. I wonder if other candidates or sitting US Senators file their FEC reports the same way. Maybe that's why the NRSC didn't touch this. Just a guess. Nobody cares because it's technical stuff nobody understands- filing out FEC forms. If we want to get techincal, why don't we talk about how Chafee failed to report where some of his donors live. The ProJo reproted in April that Chafee had failed to disclose what state some of his donors live in.

When a campaign is in trouble all they have left to resort to are creating distractions for the voters. When you file this kind of complaint, you are desperate. Whitehouse didn't file a complaint against Brown. Can you imagine a sitting US Senator having to file such a weak FEC complaint. RI Populist is right, Chafee is scared.

Hey if my candidate was voting for giving social security benefits to illegal immigrants, I would want to change the topic too. (see Laffey's website). This is too funny.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at May 21, 2006 11:09 AM

I agree with you on everything except one point. Laffey doesn't care about running for office in Rhode Island. As soon as he loses the Senate race, he'll pack his bags and move to DC.

When he was working on Wall Street, he could have cared less about Rhode Island. When he was living in Tennessee, he could have cared less about Rhode Island. Once he loses the Senate race, he'll have no reason to stay in Rhode Island and will leave. That means it won't matter whether Dan Yorke, Charlie Bakst or Jim Baron have his number. He'll be gone.

Posted by: Anthony at May 21, 2006 7:17 PM

Tim and Anthony -

Your jeaolusy of Laffey is obvious. Your inability to address real issues and instead default to emotions and whining is all too common with fellow RIers today.

The mere fact that Laffey - brilliant, ethicial, experienced and decisive - is in a dogfight for a job he is clearly more qualified for than his opponent, while Kennedy - stoned, no real job ever, intelectually challenged, thrown out of two schools -is already predicted as another landslide victory this Fall - says enough of about the pathetic electorate.

Tim2 - clearly not to be confused with the confused Tim.

Posted by: Tim2 at May 21, 2006 10:53 PM

Get real. You know as well as I do that if Chafee had violated the law, Laffey would be running around yelling from atop his RV on a bullhorn that Chafee was a corrupt insider. At least Chafee hasn't gone to that level of hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.

If you haven't figured it out, your post is symptomatic of Laffey's inability to make any progress in the polls. You call the RI electorate "pathetic". Tim2, here's a news flash: no one ever gets votes by insulting the voters they need to get elected. Voters have a word for that and it's called arrogance.

It's typical of the whole, "watch out Rhode Island, clean government is coming whether you like it or not" line. Usually it's the liberals who take pride in telling me what is best for me and what constitutes clean government, but Laffey has filled that niche quite well.

As for being jealous of Laffey, I hope you continue to believe that. As for me, I'll continue to bring up my kids teaching them to respect others' opinions, if even they disagree with those opinions; to deal with people honestly even though it may be easier not to do so; and to retain a sense of humility regardless of their successes or failures in life. My friend, these are qualities that I do not associate with Mr. Laffey.

But you can summarize my feelings as "jealousy" if it helps you sleep better at night.

Posted by: Anthony at May 21, 2006 11:15 PM


Regarding your 8:36PM post Definition blurb... what are you smokin?

I can't even understand what you are talking about. Where did the Michaud comment fit into this discussion?

As far as your other posts and their presumptuous slams of Laffey's motives for running, again I ask, what are you smokin. All these guys are high minded, strong willed, smart (some more than others), with big egos to boot. If they are all alike on the self serving, I'm in this for me, ego issue then its simply a non issue. Even proposing it as a point in your argument shows you have a very weak position.

Tomorrow's another day.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at May 21, 2006 11:44 PM


Great column by Jim Baron in the Pawtucket Times editorial section this morning. Check it out. You may be right about Laffey leaving town after he losses this fall but he'll be back to run for Governor in 2010. That's the job he's wanted all along. Laffey is Senatorial material? To be low man on the totem pole and only one of one hundred of anything? No no no! Laffey wants the stage all to himself. He just never had the balls to challenge Carcieri directly and his ego would not allow him to seek one of the lower state offices. Hence his run for Senate.
Tim2 where does your silly jealousy comment come from? Laffey's numbers have never moved into a ~he can win statewide~ level.
Carry on with your silly idol worship but sooner or later everyone sees Laffey for who and what he really is.

Posted by: Tim at May 22, 2006 6:57 AM

I couldn't agree more with Baron. About a month ago I predicted that Carcieri would be able to ride the Beacon Mutual issue to re-election. I even suggested to Laffey's people that he should jump on the bandwagon. Of course, he didn't, which isn't a surprise because Jim Bennett was one of the biggest port supporters in the state.

There are a couple of issues that the insiders hold near and dear to their hearts. The perpetuation of Beacon Mutual and the building of a port at Quonset by EDC are two of those issues.

Posted by: Anthony at May 22, 2006 8:28 AM

Too bad I don't have a bullhorn ... Other than from talk radio or Chafee HQ talking points, there is no evidence at all that Laffey wants to be Governor! President, maybe; Governor, no. The RI governor's job, by virtue of it's structural weakness, would not be very well suited to Laffey's desire to accomplish great things for the people of this state and the nation. He certainly didn't want the Lt. Gov's job, which one might presume he'd take, if he wanted an easier slide into the Gov's position in 2010. Gov. Carcieri does the job of Governor quite well, which is mainly to prevent the General Assembly from screwing up this state any more than it is already.

Secondly, Laffey has not given, in public or in private, any indication whatsoever of wanting to leave this state in the event of him not winning either the Senate Primary or the General Election. Of course, Laffey plans to win, so that's not too relevant right now. He didn't have to come back to RI, but thank God he did.

Other than water-cooler talk in Chafee HQ (maybe Bobby can back me up here), no one (except for hopeful Laffey foes) thinks Laffey is going anywhere other than higher public office. You're going to have to deal with him one way or another until you die. HA HA HA.

Posted by: Will at May 23, 2006 1:40 AM

The governor's job is still a chief executive position even though it is weaker than most other states. It still fits Laffey's temperment better than a senator who has to compromise and bargain. A governor gets to lay out his own agenda.

Your words are curious. You say that Laffey doesn't want to be governor, but that if he loses the senate race, he is going to run for higher public office. Is that correct? What office does that leave? Running for President from Rhode Island?

Will, you are wrong that Laffey has never given an indication that he would leave the state. Before he entered politics, Laffey was quoted as saying that his dream job would be to become president of Bowdoin College, his alma mater. Last time I checked Bowdoin, wasn't in the Providence-metro area.

Laffey supposedly also asked Carcieri to appoint him as the head of URI, but Carcieri declined.

Eventually, I think Laffey wants to become a college president. I'm not sure why, but while he has been involved in politics, he has been polishing his academic credentials at the same time. Why do you think Laffey took the teaching job at URI? You think he needed the money?

I can see Laffey going to DC for a couple of years, much like Pat Toomey did after losing to Specter.

After that, he'll wind up as a college president like Bob Kerrey, Ron Machtley, Janet Reno, the list goes on. Politically connected college presidents are popular because with them come access to federal funding and prestige.

Think it's ridiculous to make such long-term predcitions? I don't. Laffey is the type of guy who has his life's future mapped out and with every poll showing him losing, you can bet he has his next steps traced out.

Posted by: Anthony at May 23, 2006 9:21 AM