December 29, 2009

UPDATED: Running Back to Scriptable Territory

Justin Katz

From the looks of this letter, included in a press release, RI Democrat Party Chairman Bill Lynch doesn't like the looks of the RI Voter Coalition event:

Dear Mr. Wright,

I write to you today in my capacity as chairman of the Democratic Party of Rhode Island with regards to the gubernatorial "debate" or "forum" you have attempted to organized and schedule for next month. After personally consulting with both Democratic candidates for governor and reviewing the Providence Journal's reporting of your efforts, I have advised and encouraged both Democratic campaigns to refrain from attending what clearly appears to be an orchestrated event designed to benefit another potential candidate.

Both the general treasurer and attorney general are ready and eager to engage in a public discussion of the important issues facing our state. However, I would respectfully suggest that any event which includes a "mystery guest" and another declared candidate seated in the audience creates what can only be described as a sideshow atmosphere. These variables combined with dramatic changes to the format after the two Democratic campaigns agreed to participate indicate that this event would be anything but fair and impartial.

It is my opinion that you systematically misrepresented both the purpose and specific arrangements of the aforementioned "debate." The people of Rhode Island deserve to hear an honest exchange of ideas between candidates brought together by well-respected and non-partisan organizations. I am well aware of ongoing discussions between both Democratic candidates and other reputable, non-partisan groups interested in sponsoring or hosting candidate debates. The voters of Rhode Island deserve more than politically crafted events disguised as good government forums.

Rhode Island will face significant challenges in the coming years and this a time for real leadership and serious, meaningful debate. I would proudly put either of our fine Democratic candidates up against any of the other rumored gubernatorial candidate as both are capable of leading this state in a new and better direction.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at my office, (401) 721-9900.


William J. Lynch, chairman
The Democratic Party of Rhode Island

There's a similarity, here, to suspicions that the Tea Party movement was just scripted partisan showmanship (which it wasn't). Real grassroots — the kind that involves citizens actually forming new groups and seeking to answer questions like, "Why can't we just host a forum?" — will involve some unpredictability and odd statements and maneuvers. That's the point. Folks who get involved that way — rather than signing on for "grassroots" activism that has been thoroughly vetted and neutered — are challenging the usual practices.

That factor, mixed with an understandable fear that the people of Rhode Island might wake up to the mess that entrenched powers have made (think chloroform and date rape) help to explain Lynch's paranoia.

ADDENDUM (5:35 p.m.):

And in the time it took me to drive home, with a stop to pick up some paper towels:

PAWTUCKET - The two Democratic candidates for Rhode Island governor, General Treasurer Frank Caprio and Attorney General Patrick Lynch, spoke by telephone within the hour and have agreed to refrain from participating in a January forum / debate organized by Coventry resident Steven Wright.

No word on whether the candidates sought to reconcile their concerns with Mr. Wright, first. Remember this when either of these candidates comes looking for your vote during the general election.

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What exactly would the RIVC need to contact Chairman Lynch about? Do Democratic candidates need to obtain Lynch the Elder's permission before appearing at events?

Posted by: Andrew at December 29, 2009 4:56 PM

Do you think Bill Lynch might have a conflict of interest? LOL.

Anyway, I think this plays into our hands very well if both Democrats are a "no show." Anyone have cardboard cutouts? I feel bad for the RIVC, because I think they are doing this in very good faith. I have not yet attended one of their forums, so I am looking forward to seeing something there.

Anyway, I think the "mystery guest" thing was being done in the HOPE that Laffey or someone else other than a Dem might make an announcement prior to Jan. 8th (for the record, I do not currently anticipate that), as well as hoping a representative of the Moderate Party would be there, and would decide to jump into the forum, since it was only going to be 2 Democrats having a forum. It's a forum, not a debate.

Anyway, the way I look at it, anything the Dems want to do to blow off and alienate a group of voters can only benefit non-Dems.

Posted by: Will at December 29, 2009 5:06 PM

Apparently candidates Caprio and Lynch failed to comply with the Dennigan rule -- getting approval from the party bosses before making a public appearance.

Posted by: Andrew at December 29, 2009 5:54 PM

You've got to be kidding me. I thought Frank Caprio was different. Does he think Bill Lynch will be looking out for him?

Posted by: mikeinri at December 29, 2009 6:02 PM

The candidates did not call Mr. Wright to reconcile their concerns regarding the format or the special guest. Ms. Greggs' article in the Projo was inaccurate and did not reflect the format we discussed with the candidates.

Our special guest wasn't even running for office in RI plus we were leaving the door open for Chaffee or Laffey if they decided to jump in at the last minute.

Folks should remember when we scheduled this Rory Smith was still "in".

The forum will continue on Jan 8th, we will feature other candidates for statewide office and the candidates running for US Congress from both districts. It is short notice, the invitations to the candidates will go out tonight and whoever can make it is welcome to take the stage. Laffey, Chaffee, whoever, declared or not are welcome to step up and answer some questions.

Posted by: gina at December 29, 2009 6:41 PM

I'm curious to learn what reputable non-partisan organizations have been in contact with Mr. Lynch concerning hosting debates. NEA? SEIU? ACORN?

This has been on my calendar for weeks. The Dems are just no fun. Is Billy gonna protect his brood like a Mother Hen all the way to Nov. 2nd?

Posted by: MadMom at December 29, 2009 6:50 PM

Just compare Mr Lynch who has been one of the most sucsessful chairman, to the
Republican's chairman Gio C.
Gio has lost 30% of the seats that the GOP held when he became chairman.
Gio is a total failure. FACT

The fact that Patrick Kenedy is still a
Rep. is proof that Gio has failed

Posted by: Oscar at December 29, 2009 8:19 PM

... Seriously? The advice of the party chair is that his candidates should run away from a voters' forum like scared children??

Chairman Lynch for life!!!

Posted by: Monique at December 29, 2009 8:45 PM

So, who was/is the "special/surprise guest"? Does anyone know?

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at December 29, 2009 9:35 PM

The special guest was going to be a man from NH speaking about civic engagement he is very passoinate about the subject It was not confirmed So I did not give his name it he has a special needs child and needs nursing because he travels with him everywhere

Posted by: steve w at December 29, 2009 10:08 PM


Groovy. I find it very odd that you would present it that way, but I'll take your word.

However, I've just visited your website. You're not claiming to be a non-partisan, civic engagement organization, are you?

Given what I've seen on your website, Dem candidates would be crazy to appear at a forum sponsored by you.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at December 29, 2009 10:52 PM


Could you give us a hint as to what it is on the RIVC that you find incompatible with Democratic governing ideology?

I actually found the basic description of the original January 8 event...

Patrick Lynch and Frank Caprio have confirmed. Rory Smith confirmed and then completely dropped out of the race. Lincoln Chaffee can’t decide and Steve Laffey is hiding! be as accurate and non-partisan as one could be.

Posted by: Andrew at December 29, 2009 11:11 PM

Thomas, it has been stated that the forum consists of voters asking questions of candidates.

Does your derogatory statement mean that you doubt that the forum will take place as previewed? Or do you believe that voters should not ask questions of the people who wish to take on the mantle of power that we the people have devolved to our elected officials?

Posted by: Monique at December 29, 2009 11:16 PM


Could you give us a hint as to what it is on the RIVC that you find incompatible with Democratic governing ideology?

I don't even understand this question. Why should I care what is "compatible with the Democratic governing ideology". I do care what's compatible with a "non-partisan candidate forum".


Or do you believe that voters should not ask questions of the people who wish to take on the mantle of power that we the people have devolved to our elected officials?

No, I do not believe that. Why would I?

I have four words for you guys: "League of Women Voters". They know how to run a non-partisan candidate debate.

It takes about 30 seconds on SteveW's website to realize it's a partisan organization.

Posted by: thomas Schmeling at December 29, 2009 11:58 PM

I don't even understand this question. Why should I care what is "compatible with the Democratic governing ideology"...
Because you didn't claim that an RIVC forum was incompatible with any candidates; you only mentioned Democratic ones.

BTW, do you think that Elizabeth Dennigan, who appeared at the Nov. 19 RIVC forum is crazy, or perhaps a stealth conservative? Have you heard reports that you'd like to share with us from her campaign that she was treated unfairly?

Posted by: Andrew at December 30, 2009 12:14 AM


I just visited their website for kicks. What on earth do you find partisan about it? The small American flag perhaps? If candidates of one particular political party refuse to participate (Rep. Betsy Dennigan being the recent exception), does that automatically make it partisan?

"RIVC is a non-partisan group of citizens who have determined that our government and our political parties no longer represent us and we want a say in which candidates will be on the ballot in the primaries and in November."

It's certainly not that statement. You seem to be intentionally or not confusing "partisan" (for the advancement of a particular political party) with them having a point of view or general worldview.

From what little I understand of them, many of them prefer to operate outside the current "partisan" construct ... i.e. they aren't particularly big fans of Democrats or Republicans! Best I can tell, they seem to want to "throw the bums out", all of them! That being said, most of the bums in RI happen to be Democrats, simply because of way the numbers breakdown.

Posted by: Will at December 30, 2009 1:53 AM


1.) Do you believe that any organization other than the League of Women Voters should hold a candidate forum?

2.) Please describe the partisan nature of the RIVC and what disqualifies them, in your view, from holding a voter forum, especially one as scheduled for January; i.e., voters will ask questions, the hosting organization will simply keep time.

Posted by: Monique at December 30, 2009 7:24 AM

This incident proves the cowardice of the Democratic Party. It also demonstrates their lack of interest in ordinary citizens. I'm sure both Lynch and Caprio will happily show up at "Drinking Liberally" events and union-sponsored events.

Posted by: BobN at December 30, 2009 8:28 AM

I just checked the League of Women Voter's website. The 2006-2008 guide to LWV public policy positions states that the League opposes interpreting the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right (somewhat moot now), that they opposed the restrictions on partial birth abortion that have been passed into law, that they favor "a national health insurance plan financed through general taxes in place of individual insurance premiums", and that they support abolition of the death penalty, to name just a few of their specific issue positions.

So how are they any more qualified to run a non-partisan debate than the Rhode Island Voter Coalition?

Posted by: Andrew at December 30, 2009 9:04 AM

In a crowded field, how does a candidate show he is strong enough to fill the position? For starters, he addresses ANY crowd, articulates his positions whether they are friendly to the crowd or not, and respectfully stands firm in his beliefs. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

Is this what you would teach your students Professor? Or would you recommend they "drink liberally" until election day? Is it any wonder we have so many spineless leaders?

Posted by: mikeinri at December 30, 2009 10:16 AM

It appears that the RI Democrats are taking a page from the Obama Chicago / Alinsky playbook, and attempting to paint the RIVC as “not legitimate” – similar to the (would be laughable if the stakes were not so serious) Obama-Axelrod efforts to paint Fox News as not being a legitimate news organization.

The RI Democrats can’t run on their record of making RI a national poster-child for political corruption, high taxes, high unemployment and low opportunity, and so want to protect their candidates from answering hard, unfiltered questions.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2009 10:36 AM

From what I can see there is nothing partisan about the RIVC. I have spoken with Steve and Chris in the past and everything they said was about citizen engagement in the political process and giving ordinary citizens a more direct connection to their representatives. I would think that politicians seeking to become the people's representatives would welcome that opportunity. After all, if they communicate successfully a compelling message, they would be building support in these forums and have nothing to fear.

The accusation about any Tea Party connection is a complete red herring based on a (willfully?) false impression of the Tea Party. The Rhode Island Tea Party is resolutely non-partisan. Its mission statement shows only three goals: 1) fiscally responsible government; 2) transparent and accountable government; 3)government based on the principles of the Constitution as intended by its Framers. In short, good government in accordance with the principles on which the United States was founded.

What could be objectionable about that?

Posted by: BobN at December 30, 2009 1:42 PM

--"In short, good government in accordance with the principles on which the United States was founded. What could be objectionable about that?"

ALL of it, if you're Obama - Pelosi - Reid or one of their bush-leaguers in the RI Democrat Party / RI Future crowd.

They draw their inspiration from Marx, Gramsci, Mussolini, Cloward-Piven and Alinsky.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2009 2:50 PM
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