March 20, 2007

Things Heard During the Cicione / Yorke Conversation

Marc Comtois

Here's a paraphrased run-down (though I've probably provided exact wording in a few cases) of Dan Yorke's interview with new RI GOP chair Gio Cicione. (Hopefully, Yorke will put the audio up on his site).

Cicione stated that the RI GOP needs to spread the word out about their ideals and they have to do it in a different way than the President will do it or than a politician in the Western or Southern states might do it.

Yorke re-stated his contention that the RI GOP needs to have a full-time chair and a paid staff and that they can't simply be content to run things like the Democrats. Cicione responded that he has proposed having an Executive Director--to professionalize that office--and agrees the RI GOP can't mimic the Democrats.

Cicione said the RI GOP has given up on unions and minorities and they need to address that.

Yorke said Carcieri is out of gas other than a solid fiscal mind and good character. He's not throwing the gauntlet down. The RI GOP needs a fighter.

Yorke pointed out that the budget has gone up every year under Carcieri. Cicione attributed that to lessening revenue streams, some intentional (like car tax and income tax reductions) and some not (like few corporate taxes). To this, Yorke asked if this was really part of the Governor's plan: to create a budget deficit so that the state would have to deal with cutting programs. Cicione didn't bite on that theory. However, on the subject of decreasing corporate taxes--alluding to the tax breaks given as business incentives--Cicione said he's opposed to extensive corporate welfare (in addition to excessive individual welfare).

Cicione talked about grass-roots and integrating town and city committee's into the fund raising process more. At this point, Yorke offered 2 points of advice concerning what he thought should be some goals for the RI GOP

First was to start a movement to eliminate partisanship in municipal elections (from Mayor on down) and he noted that partisan ideology has no impact on municipal politics--all of the complaints are the same, and rarely are they ideologically derived. Additionally, this would remove the incentive for a guy running for dog-catcher to be a Democrat because it gives him a leg-up in a one-party state. It would also take power--and resources--away from city and town committees.

Yorke's second suggestion was to stop allowing unaffiliated voters the ability to vote in party primaries. Yorke also sketched a financial plan and suggested that Cicione go to the National party to ask for money for party-building in addition to raising enough money in RI to set up a real party infrastructure.

Cicione responded that they needed institutional consistency and agreed that you can't short-change the local party workers. If you do, they'll leave you for someone else. However, Cicione is not as worried about not being a full-time GOP Chair so long as the team is big enough to share the burden. He also noted that being a full-time party operator takes you away from daily interactions with regular people.

Cicione wants to pass good laws. About 50 of the 3000 bills submitted every year are valid. He plans on putting up a "100 bad bills" campaign next year to highlight all of the time wasted by our legislature on bad or meaningless legislation.

Yorke asked if he's going to be an organizational guy or a bomb-thrower. Cicione said both (earlier he whacked Sen. Montalbano for patronage). Cicione explained that the RI GOP needed to be better organized, but they also can't let the sheer volume of political hi-jinx overwhelm them to the point that they let it pass by without comment. According to Cicione, the RI GOP needs to hit 'em every time.

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"Yorke also sketched a financial plan and suggested that Cicione go to the National party to ask for money for party-building"

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't we get 500k for party building before the last election cycle. What happened to that money? Oh that's right I forgot about Arsenault's article and about Linc, we were building the insider / not sure if I'm a Democrat or Republican Party.

Posted by: David Davis at March 20, 2007 4:53 PM

With that said, I wish Mr. Cicione the best of luck and hope that he stands true to his promise of not being afraid to throw a smack-down at the Dems when they ask for one.

The 100 bad bills sounds like a good idea, maybe Yorke or Dipetro can have Gio or others on to do a bad bill of the week segment.

Posted by: David Davis at March 20, 2007 4:57 PM

I thought that Gio did reasonably well with Yorke today, despite Dan's trying to bait him quite a few times.

One thing that caught my ear on the radio today [as an often alleged "insider"] was that Gio mentioned Donna Perry as a possible choice for RIGOP Executive Director. She's a person with a lot of political experience. As I recall, Donna works in some capacity for Governor Carcieri, handling the media. She also just happens to be John DePetro's sister (correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I heard that on the radio today). I'm curious if that will help or hurt her chances, or if it won't make a difference. Would Dan Yorke approve? ;)

The other thing is, will she remain an employee of the governor (which I think she does part-time now)? How exactly will the RIGOP afford to pay her? Would she be full-time or part-time? At present, the RIGOP has about 60K in the bank, but that isn't going to last long, unless we start getting some serious cash into the coffers. That being said, if it pans out, I think she would be a reasonably good choice for the party.

Posted by: Will at March 20, 2007 9:14 PM

I'm not lifting my personal moratorium on giving money to the State GOP until I hear Gio denounce the practice of paying insiders more in consulting fees than the party contributes to candidates.

There's a recent opening on the McCain campaign in New Hampshire for anyone looking for a political job. Aside from the E.D. anyone who is truly committed to the party ought to be willing to volunteer their skills and time without looking for payment.

On the radio today, Gio said he's "a die-hard Republican"? Why then, did he give money to Democrat David Cicilline in 2002? Will he support Cicilline over a Republican for Gov. or Congress in 2010?

Posted by: Perry Ellis at March 20, 2007 10:15 PM

As an addendum to my earlier post, I've been informed by an even more well informed person than myself that Donna left the media position in the Governor's office just after the election when Jeff Neal went back to the working at the state house full time. So, she's available!

Posted by: Will at March 21, 2007 12:43 AM

from the projo on Perry's departure from the governor's office:

>> This first staff-level change appears to be the departure of Donna Perry, who was brought into the governor’s media office to help with the workload while Carcieri was campaigning. His government spokesman, Neal, had switched over to the campaign and Perry was added to the state payroll to assist...regarding Perry he said: “Now that I have returned to the governor’s office and the pace has died down some, it is appropriate for Donna to look for other opportunities that might better fit her schedule as a working mother with two young children.”<<

Posted by: johnb at March 21, 2007 8:50 AM

The thing I heard from GIO that made me say "what?" was his comment that we could reform the party with a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

We need to raise a million if not more (Yorke tried to make this point). Even if we do not get there, that should be the goal. Anyone who has raised a significant amount of money would know that you need to set high standards to get where you want to be.

Job one for Gio is to get some real rundraising types involved

Posted by: Carl Elliott at March 21, 2007 11:17 AM

I think job#1 for Gio is restoring confidence and respect of the grass roots the previous State Chair lacked by being a good listener and working with them!
It is my understanding he attended last Saturday's GOP breakfast in South Kingstown which is a monthly South County Republican Coalition event held in various communities.I was not present.
Money is undeniably important.The captain of any team needs to understand and respect the players.I hope Gio visits various Republican groups around the state and builds bridges.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at March 21, 2007 12:15 PM


Your understanding would be wrong. Gio did not attend last week's south county breakfast, although John Robitaille, Karen Salvatore, and Mayor Laffey did.

In any event, so what if he had? Patricia Morgan was a semi-regular at the SC breakfasts, but it doesn't seem to have done her any good with the rank and file. In any event, I think it's about time you start to let your animosity towards Patricia go, don't you?

Posted by: johnb at March 21, 2007 5:34 PM
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