July 17, 2012

RIGOP About To Disburse $30,000-ish to Republican State Candidates

Monique Chartier

Mark Zaccaria, Chair of the RIGOP, was kind enough to spend some time on the phone with me explaining how extensively (not his phrasing) GoLocalProv erred in their story as to the purportedly penurious state of the RIGOP. Hint for GoLocal: you only looked at one account; the party has four.

Out of that conversation came the news that the party is about to disburse in the region of $30,000 in varying increments to as many as sixty vetted Republican candidates running for the General Assembly. Zaccaria said that he would have preferred that the party have a larger amount to distribute but called it a step in the right direction.

We await GoLocalProv's explanation as to how the party is able to make this disbursement (to recap: of approx $30,000) if, as GoLocal alleges, the party only has $535 on hand.


Patrick Laverty e-mailed me to point out that the GoLocal article was talking about the RIGOP's federal account. This is, indeed, true. No reference is made in the article to the RIGOP's other three accounts, however, and the reader is left with the distinct impression (to phrase it no stronger) that the RIGOP has only $535 on hand. Mark Smiley makes this clarifying comment under the GoLocal article.

... if Warren Buffet had 4 accounts and you looked at the one that only had $500 in it, would you have written an article saying he was broke? No, you'd assume he had billions in some other account. RI GOP doesn't have billions, but this is bias reporting at best.
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Thank you Monique for writing this article and pointing out the obvious to Go Local Prov who clearly committed media bias by omission. I was very disappointed that when I addressed it on my Facebook page the author attempted to defend it rather than correct it. I even went as far to provide specific examples of bias by omission in addition to the Journalism Code of Ethics. Still no change....

I really like the fact that you call them out on it too. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Michael Napolitano at July 17, 2012 9:51 PM

Thank you for pointing out what I also feel was irresponsible and lazy reporting at best.

Being a long time member of the RIGOP, I've not always been a fan of certain aspects of how the RIGOP has operated over a long span of time, especially as it comes to raising and spending money. However, I have never felt the need to spin tall tales out of whole cloth in order make a particular point, such as what GoLocalProv did with that article. It's like they started with a preconceived conclusion, and only looked for the "evidence" to fit that conclusion. That's not journalism.

Just using the excuse that "according to federal campaign finance reports" is itself misleading, as money in the state operating and victory accounts do not get filed on the federal level at all, but with the Board of Elections campaign finance division. For a good number of years (last time we had major federal funds was I believe 2006), most of the RIGOP's money has been channeled through the state operating and victory accounts. The only reason why we have federal accounts is that the RNC requires every state to have them. Would it be nice if they were overflowing with cash? Sure. Is it worth this kind of article? Absolutely not. Yellow journalism at it's worse.

PS And yes, the RIGOP will be disbursing about $30,000 to candidates, in amounts between $250 to $1000 this week to General Assembly candidates (which is about half its cash on hand from what I understand)... which is nearly $30,000 more than GA candidates got in 2010. Now, that would make a more positive story, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Will at July 17, 2012 10:19 PM

"Now, that would make a more positive story, wouldn't it?"

Did anyone *tell* that story when they were contacted for the story that was written? Quick answer, "no". Why is that?

If you're contacted by a writer and told that the writer is doing a story on the sorry state of federal campaign funding in the state and asked for comment, wouldn't you say "Yeah but, we do have $30,000 in the local coffers that we're about to give out to our candidates, which is $30,000 more than was given last year." Wouldn't that make sense? Why wasn't that information given?

I'm seeing in various places that some people think writers just know everything about everything at all times. For stories to get out there, it does still sometimes require the subject to give a heads up and sometimes with some additional background information. Maybe if someone has a story idea, try writing to various people and say "Hey I think this might be an interesting story to write about, here's some info!"

Posted by: Patrick at July 18, 2012 6:52 AM

The writer is supposed to conduct research from all publicly available sources. For instance, he could have gone on board of elections campaign finance website, typed in "RI Republican State Committee" and easily obtained the balance of the state accounts, which as of 4/30 was $33,401.65 (my understanding is that it somewhere in the vicinity of $60,000 now, prior to the disbursements I mentioned in my last post). We actually have more money on hand then the RI Democratic Committee (now there's a story!).

If the headline of the story specifically had to do with the amount of money that the RIGOP receives from the RNC, NRSC, or NRCC, then I can see your point as valid. However, the story had the headline "Rhode Island GOP worse funded party in country." It's simply false.

Posted by: Will at July 18, 2012 2:51 PM

"For instance, he could have gone on board of elections campaign finance website, typed in "RI Republican State Committee" and easily obtained the balance of the state accounts"

But that's comparing apples to oranges. How do you get that same data for all 50 states? He indicated that it was "federal" accounts and used the same sources for all 50.

If he wrote that the RIGOP has $33,000 in the same column with what he wrote for the other states, that would be inaccurate journalism. It isn't comparing the same thing.

Why doesn't RI get or have the same kind of federal campaign funding that the other states have? Why does Wisconsin have $1.6M in their federal account? Do states just do their accounting differently and lump their state funds in with their federal funds?

Posted by: Patrick at July 18, 2012 3:42 PM
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