July 11, 2006

The Latest Anti-Laffey Tactical Maneuver

Carroll Andrew Morse

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Cranston City Council have made formal objections to a letter from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey that was included in Cranston’s 2007 tax bills. The Cranston City Council has passed a resolution asking the Mayor to reimburse the city for the mailing, while the NRSC objection is in the form of a Federal Election Commission complaint.

The content making this mailing “controversial” (in the minds of some) is a discussion of Cranston's fiscal history and current fiscal situation. Here’s Mark Arsenault in the Projo on what the letter says…

Laffey's letter to Cranston residents promoted his accomplishments in office, and urged residents to watch out for fiscal traps that could affect their tax bills in the future. The letter reads in part: "I am humbled and honored to have served as your Mayor over the past four years. When I signed up for the job, I did so with the sole intent of putting Cranston back on its feet, and I am happy to say that together, we have succeeded beyond our expectations!" The letter also compares the city's fiscal conditions now to four years ago, when Cranston's finances were nearly taken over by the state because of deficits and low bond ratings.

Laffey has sent similar letters to residents in past years, as have previous administrations.

Matt Sanderson of the Cranston Herald goes into a few more specifics…
In the full-page letter from Laffey, who is running for U.S. Senate, he states what he calls his accomplishments in the past four years, such as reducing taxes by 1.5 percent, going from an $11.7 million deficit to a $20 million surplus and going up five notches in bond ratings and being the “fastest turn-around in the nation.” He also praises the 20 percent health care co-pay for city workers, and the new crossing guard program that he says saves the city $500,000 a year.
The letter makes no mention of the U.S Senate campaign.

1. From a self-consistency standpoint, I understand the Cranston City Council’s position. As Democrats, they believe that people should simply pay whatever the government tells them to pay and not expect to receive any information about where the money is going or what the forecast for the future is. Alas, it is all too unsurprising that this has apparently become the national Republican position also.

2. This example shows, despite the claims to the contrary, campaign finance regulation is synonymous with broad speech regulation. The NRSC now wants to use Federal campaign finance laws to prevent local officials from communicating with their constituents on local matters.

3. I have my June 2006 constituent mailing from Senator Chafee’s office. The footer says “Prepared, Published & Mailed At Taxpayer Expense”. The middle section of the mailing says…

I [Senator Lincoln Chafee] have spearheaded a provision which would transfer control of the Fox Point hurricane Barrier to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has the resources and expertise to ensure the barrier is properly maintained. Moreover, I have cosponsored legislation to streamline emergency response communications to ensure that all responders can effectively communicate with other state, local, and federal entities in the event of a catastrophe. I have also cosponsored legislation to allow New England states and Canadian provinces to share resources and personnel in a time of emergency.
And the difference between Senator Chafee touting his Senatorial accomplishments in an official mailing and Mayor Laffey touting his Mayoral accomplishments in an official mailing is?

Note that I am not arguing that the Senator should not be allowed to tout his accomplishments, just that other politicians should have the same rights as Senators. As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out on occasion, our Constitution prohibits the granting of titles of nobility and...

One characteristic of the titled nobility was its immunity from some legal rules laid on the commoners.

4. As techology moves forward, there is a good chance that the the issue of money will become less central to this debate. For example, suppose 30 years from now 90% of people get most of their civic information in an electronic format. Electrons are free. What rationale do you think the NRSC and the Cranston City Council will come up in this scenario for explaining why their elected political opponents shouldn’t be allowed to communicate with their constituents?

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A campaign running on solid ground wouldn't bother with this penny ante nonsense.

Linc's internal polling data must be showing that he's in real trouble.

Posted by: Tom W at July 11, 2006 12:29 PM

Megadittos, Tom. If this is the best they can do, September's looking pretty good.

Posted by: Will at July 11, 2006 12:45 PM

The NRSC is so lame. Rove must think they are still in Texas.

Next we will start to hear rumors and inuendo about smoke filled rooms and shady deals that never happened. This is classic negative Karl Rove/Lee Atwater tactics. Attack, attack, attack... even if you have to make it up.

I would call it "political terrorism."

And Chafee just stands back, out of the way, and lets it all happen. What a loser.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 11, 2006 2:44 PM

This is so pathetic. Chafee can't think of any positive thing to say about the job he's done so he focuses on the negative but ends up looking at needle-in-the-haystack issues such as this. Heavens forbid a Mayor inform his citizens about what a good job he's done! His career in the US senate is so devoid of anything as to be positively lame. Oh wait, I forgot, he blew up the Jamestown bridge. Yipeeeeeee.

Posted by: Pete Sherbert at July 11, 2006 3:38 PM

Too funny: people attack Chafee after Laffey breaks the law (again)!

Laffey may not agree with existing federal campaign finance law, but he should at least follow it since he's running for the body that writes it.

Believe it or not, there is a difference between "franked" mail (Chafee's piece) and Laffey's piece and there are strict requirement on what can and can not be said in both. You can find out the difference with a quick Google search.

This is the second time that his campaign has broken campaign finance law and the third time his mailings have had an issue. Remember the letter with all the typos? At least Laffey is consistent.

Look, I don't think this is a big deal. He'll have to give back $3,000, but who is making these campaign decisions? Whoever is making the decisions might want to try using Google before making such expert calls.

If I were a Laffey supporter, I'd be more concerned about fixing some of the campaign's internal issues.

You don't come back from 30 points behind by doing dumb things.

Posted by: Anthony at July 11, 2006 5:07 PM

And Tom W, Will, etc, you know just as well as I do that Laffey would have filed a complaint against Chafee if Chafee had broken the law. Laffey is no stranger to complaining and suing people when he feels it will benefit him. That's politics.

Posted by: Anthony at July 11, 2006 5:09 PM

What is up with the bizarre screening of posts on this site?
Just tried to post on this topic and it wouldn't go through. There were no personal attacks and no bad words.
What is up with this site boys?
Trying to kill the already minuscule amount of feedback you get?
Very lame.


{Tim, you must have hit a technical difficulty. Nothing of yours was intentionally blocked (unlike the next comment from "Mike", which was intentionally deleted)}

Posted by: Tim at July 11, 2006 7:22 PM

{Read the post at the link below and try again.


Posted by: Mike at July 11, 2006 7:46 PM

{See remark above}

Posted by: earlscheib at July 11, 2006 9:52 PM

"And Tom W, Will, etc, you know just as well as I do that Laffey would have filed a complaint against Chafee if Chafee had broken the law."

Not if Laffey thought it was a big waste of his time and energy. Fact is, Chafee's people filed this trivial complaint; Laffey's didn't. However, unlike Chafee, Laffey actually makes his own political decisions for himself; not delegating it to his staff, interns, or wife.

Chafee's desperate to score some points here and there and appear to be relevant, because he knows the closer we get to September, the worse things are going to get for him. This doesn't even rank as a mosquito bite.

However, don't expect Laffey to roll over and play dead. Remember, the more you try to take him down, the more he's likely to fight back even harder.

There's an old expression: "Don't poke a sleeping bear with a stick." Go ahead, try it. :)

Posted by: Will at July 12, 2006 2:12 AM

You have a selective memory. Laffey has been in court more than any other mayor in RI.

By the way, how come there was no mention of the latest fundraising numbers? When Laffey had a good quarter, this blog lit up with comments. Now when the momentum has shifted decisively to Chafee, the numbers don't even get mentioned? More selective memory?

Chafee raised TWICE as much as Laffey and Laffey is trailing by 30 POINTS.

There is deep trouble in Laffeyland and the Kool-Aid is runnning out.

Posted by: Anthony at July 12, 2006 8:09 AM

"You have a selective memory. Laffey has been in court more than any other mayor in RI."

Actually, I have a very good memory. It may perhaps be true that Laffey has been more litigious than other mayors, but he's also been extraordinarily successful at it. He's saved far more money than has been spent on legal fees, so it was well worth it. It's not Laffey's style to do things for no apparent reason. He always has a reason.

PS I dispute your assertions both in regards to polling data, as well as fundraising on a number of levels. Yeah, Laffey couldn't get Laura Bush, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Fred Thompson, and the other NRSC hacks to rake in the establishment's cash for him ... he's actually had to rely on his own ability to do it. Chafee seems to be spending rather foolishly at present ... it's July!

Posted by: Will at July 12, 2006 10:54 AM


You couldn’t be more wrong.

Laffey's use of the courts was brilliant. From the no-layoff clause that did in the crossing guards (Laborers Union), to holding the line on school spending, and numerous other important cases that saved literally millions of dollars for the taxpayers in Cranston, Laffey made history with his tough stand in Cranston.

Now "history" is a strong word, and I don't use it loosely.

Google this:
Find another case where an unknown candidate, with no local political ties or obligations, and no previous political experience, comes into a city on the verge of bankruptcy, gets elected Mayor, gets unanimous approval from a 7 dem/2rep city council for a host of changes over a three year administration, replaces the “rainy day fund”, runs annual surpluses, produces award winning budgets and on time audits, funds the pension liability which was at $8 million going to $0 and is now $40 million and going up, and moves the bond rating up six steps to investment grade.

You can vainly attempt to minimize this fact (which I am sure you will try to do), but the fact remains. Laffey is a can do guy, while Chafee, and Casa Blanca for that matter, are not. They don't care about me, my family, or my future. All they care about is their "birthright."

RI desperately needs the kind of leadership Steve Laffey can bring to any job he does. The people know it and you will too. Opposition is misguided and futile because good government is coming whether you like it or not.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 12, 2006 11:27 AM

If Laffey's "own ability" is a secret code for "the out-of-state interest group known as Club for Growth", you're right Laffey is relying on his "own ability" to raise money.

The only thing I know is that Laffey is 30 points behind, is getting outraised 2:1 by Chafee and continues to makes stupid mistakes that can't be blamed on anyone but himself.

Posted by: Anthony at July 12, 2006 1:32 PM


The only thing I know for sure is I am for him and you are against him.

No matter the outcome I am on the right side and you are not.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 12, 2006 2:39 PM


Posted by: Anthony at July 12, 2006 7:29 PM


I'm glad to see you agree with my assessment.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 12, 2006 10:05 PM

Well, I agree that you'll vote for Laffey and I'll vote for Chafee...

Posted by: Anthony at July 12, 2006 10:17 PM


Today's response in the Projo to the grotesque accusations by the Chafee camp that Laffey broke the law shows just how slug like the low lifes are that handle Chafee.

The façade of civility and senatorial statesmanship that Linc enjoys because of his family name and blue blood roots is quickly falling away and is being replaced by the sickening, wreaking stench of his NRSC backed, no policy, all negative all the time, campaign of political terrorism.

If Chafee wants a street fight he should come out of his bomb shelter somewhere in south county and go mano e mano with Laffey.

I say he won’t.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 13, 2006 10:14 AM

The school bully really hates it when somebody stands up to him.
Laffey brought his chains, brass knuckles, etc. to this fight, and no one was more shocked then him when Chafee said, "Okay."
I agree Chafee's foolish to put off a debate; he only does Laffey a favor. Nobody's expecting eloquence from Linc - he only needs to stand back and let Laffey stick his foot in his mouth, as is inevitable anytime Steve's near a microphone for more than 30 seconds.

Posted by: rhody at July 13, 2006 1:24 PM

Rhody, you bring up two good points.

First, Laffey wasn't expecting Chafee to be so aggressive in fighting back.

Second, doesn't this debate conversation remind you of Bush/Gore when everyone thought Gore would wipe the floor with Bush?

Chafee is taking the standard frontrunner's position--avoid debating the challenger until the end. I doubt the Brown/Harvard debate will have much impact on anyone. Most people have already decided who they're supporting and the expectations for Chafee in a debate are already so low, Chafee virutally wins by just showing up.

Of course, Chafee may win big if he can get Laffey to call for the deaths of senior citizens again!

Posted by: Anthony at July 13, 2006 4:26 PM

I'll take your word for it about the techical difficulty. Just pretty weird that I got that message in red letters about objectionable material in my post when there was none.

Posted by: Tim at July 13, 2006 10:17 PM


You must like your role as a revisionist. Here's a reality check. Chafee was the first one to go negative. In fact that is all Chafee has done.

Your pal Anthony sounds like he is just as confused as you are. The first one to attack is the bully. Chafee initiated the negative attacks. He isn't fighting back. He started the negatives war.

Where are his policies and positions? What record is he standing on? He has nothing to say because he has no meaningful policies, positions or record of accomplishment for doing anything for the people of RI.

You are about to see the end of the Chafee era. John would not be proud of what is happening here. How could he with Linc stinking up the place with all this BS.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 13, 2006 10:29 PM

John Chafee was criticized by conservatives all the time. He had his own primary against a conservative businessman, Tom Post and was a lighting rod when he defended Clinton against impeachment, putting him to the left of Democrats like Lieberman.

Can you please post a comment supported by facts? Heck, you can even distort the facts. We can discuss how close a Laffey/Sheeler race might be...just something besides your Orwellian, "Chafee bad, Laffey good" commentary. I miss Fred Sanford.

Posted by: Anthony at July 13, 2006 11:33 PM

Anthony, Anthony, Anthony...

Read my post above @ July 12, 2006 11:27 AM

You have nothing in rebuttal, and changing the subject doesn't count.

Attacking Laffey is hurting Chafee because everybody who looks at Laffey's record of real reforms and accomplishments can see for themselves what he has done.

Chafee went to court to raise taxes in Warwick, while Laffey saved Cranston.

Maybe you can enlighten us with a list of his accomplishments the past five years, while he lived with his entire family down in Virginia.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 14, 2006 5:12 PM


In fact you can read about all of Laffey's accomplishments here

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at July 14, 2006 5:23 PM