October 17, 2005

Here Comes Anti-Laffey Ad #2

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has a preview of the next anti-Laffey ad being run in Rhode Island by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Here is Cillizza’s description of the content…

The narrator says Laffey used taxpayer dollars to soundproof his mayoral office and spent ‘thousands on spy cameras to spy on employees.’

‘Bizarre...but the joke's on us,’ the narrator says, adding that Cranston had the highest property taxes in the state under Laffey and that Laffey raised taxes twice. ‘Tax and Spend Steve Laffey ... Nobody's laughing now,’ the narrator intones at the ad's close.

The constant barrage of negative advertising now presents two dangers to the Republican establishment. One is that the voters of Rhode Island will be turned off. A second danger, however, is that national fundraising will begin to suffer if the NRSC continues its practice of opposing Steve Laffey more strongly than it opposes any Democrat. This is from an e-mail received by National Review Online

For the past year or so, I've been sending the solicitation envelopes back with nothing in them but a note like this:

NOT ONE MORE DIME!! We do not donate our hard-earned money to the RNC so you lot can waste it financing the campaigns of squish candidates, working to defeat good conservatives in primaries, or to continue a cycle of begging us for more money to be used for more such nonsense. NOT ONE MORE DIME until RNC starts supporting conservative candidates. Meanwhile, we are sending donations directly to the campaigns of candidates we believe are worth supporting.


Don reminds us that Laffey himself has openly talked on CNN about the use of cameras in city investigations. Katherine Gregg provides some factual background on the “Tax and Spend” moniker in today’s (10/18) Projo.

Once again, talk of Chafee vs. Laffey instantly becomes talk about Laffey. This is not promising for an incumbent.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I find it a stunning display of arrogance that the Republican Senate leadership is bringing up - in a negative way - any reference to the videotaping of the crossing guards.

It is public knowledge that these unionized workers were sleeping on the job while collecting outrageous salaries and benefits paid for by the working families and retirees of Cranston.

These Senate people have only one principle: sustaining their power base, even if that means being devoid of any policy principles or vision for America.

Read this interview with Laffey to get more details on why he did the right thing in blowing this crossing guard issue out into the open.

And then read this posting to get a context in which that action by Laffey triggered an entirely appropriate and necessary debate across Rhode Island during the next year.

Now, imagine if the Republican Senate leadership spent their money going after liberal Democrats who thwarted - among other things - the timely appointment of judges in the Senate.

And they wonder why we have no respect for their "foreign money" here in Rhode Island?

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at October 17, 2005 10:19 PM

If one needs further proof that the DC elites over at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) are completely clueless about the Senate race in Rhode Island, this new "comic book" ad only emphasizes the point. That it's in the style of an old comic book seems very fitting, because it's a complete joke! I just hope that Chafee/NRSC keeps going down this route, because it's only going to benefit Laffey in the long run. This is like the gift that keeps on giving -- they just don't get it. It emphasizes that Laffey is standing up against the establishment and the elitists (i.e., David vs. Goliath), gives him tons of free name recognition, gets people wondering what the DC types are afraid of, and speaks volumes by omission about Chafee's lack of a real record to run on. No one at the Laffey campaign should be worried about it at all (actually, pretty sure they're not).

On the charge that Mayor Laffey spent "thousands on spy cameras to spy on employees" -- you bet he did, and he's darn proud of it! Why was he "spying" on them? Oh, right, to catch grossly overpaid city employees on camera sleeping on the job! It absolutely amazes me beyond belief that the NRSC thinks we are so clueless, that we've already forgotten what "Laffey Cam" was really about!

As for "tax and spend," how about the truth? He raised some taxes in the short term to balance the budget and to avoid defaulting on the city's bonds and having the city go bankrupt -- which would have hurt the city for the long term. He couldn't make up that gap simply by cutting spending, because the city's unions had ironclad contracts his predecessors negotiated which the city couldn't back out of. He did the right thing, given the circumstances. Nothing happens in a vacuum. If one wants to contrast that record of accomplishment with Linc Chafee's own record on "taxing and spending," I'll borrow three famous words -- BRING IT ON!

I've been a member of the RNC since the week of my 18th birthday. While the RNC and the NRSC are technically different organizations, I know that they are close enough at the hip, that I can consider them related. They both get marching orders from the White House. I have not yet renewed my RNC membership for this year, because of shenanigans like this. As for all the other solicitations from the RNC and related entities, and I assure you, I receive many, I've been promptly shredding them, because I'm just fed up with all of it. However, I'm going to take Andrew and Don's idea under advisement going forward, since considering the volume of mail that I'm still getting, they may not have gotten the hint from me yet. I'm not giving money to the national Republicans so that they can work against good members of this party who aren't part of their little elitist club. I give money to them to fight Democrats, not Republicans! I'm sorry to have to do it, but sometimes principle needs to come before politics.

Posted by: Will at October 18, 2005 1:11 AM

The vitrol that's been lobbied at Laffey is like free advertisement for him. Imagine, you're jogging down some road around 7am and as you round a corner you see a guy talking to people. A few others are carry some signs that you can't quite make out. As you draw nearer you see that the signs say 'Laffey' and since your route is right by where the Senatorial candidate is you stop and talk to him. In your conversation, you hear how he's against the elites in Washington, he wants to help the little guy, and he also has very cogent ideas about what will help Rhode Island. You think to yourself, 'nice guy. A little too passionate maybe, but very much unlike any candidate I've ever met.' A couple of days later you watch some scathing attack ad against the guy you just met at 7am on some corner in Nowhere Rhode Island.

Now, ask yourself, would you be more likely to a) believe the man you spoke with or b) some cheeseball ad from a national Republican committee. Knowing Rhode Islanders like I do, I'd say whatever the national party is in favor of Rhode Islanders are likely to take the opposite view if only in spite. Having said that, if I were on the Laffey team, I'd be loving the 'free press' I'm getting knowing full well Laffey can counter any attack ad via his own personal charm, charisma, and unyielding desire to talk to all Rhode Islanders about his plans as Senator.

In fact, I believe the only way Chafee can really difuse the situation would be to call the dogs off and ask them, publicly, to stop making those ads. He may once he sees new poll numbers which I truly believe will show Laffey gaining major ground across the state.

Posted by: don roach at October 18, 2005 8:01 AM

I believe is was a streetsweeper and not a crossing guard who was caught napping.It may be true that some crossing guards missed their shifts, or were on post for less time than theoretically required; but the real issue with the crossing guards did not require undercover investigation -- it was the outrageous level of compensation, benefits and the amount of time they are required to work to receive it. It was work patterns of other city employees I believe were targeted by Laffey's investigations which are absurdly criticised by the NRSC.

Otherwise, I agree, the NRSC has completely miscued here after actually hitting home with their previous negative ad.

The most absurd idea in this ad is the implication that Laffey is a profligate spender. Arguing about whether Cranston is number one in taxes or Coventry is kind of silly hairsplitting. If the Democratic administration gave away the store and never raised taxes, what does anyone expect it would take to make the city solvent. I suppose bankrupty was the constitutional option in Cranston, and if that is what the NRSC would have preferred from Laffey, they should say so. As far as the idea of Chafee as some kind of economic wizz kid guarding the pursestrings, has anybody stopped laughing yet?

No one has done more to take on the entrenched interests that ballon state and local spending than Laffey. Everybody on the fiscally responsible side of the ledger knows this.

As far as those who don't follow taxpayer advocacies regularly, this is very reason I think it was horrible strategy on Laffey's part to come out of the gate swinging at the Oil and Pharmecutical industries.

Even if he actually believes any of this nonsense he is spewing about them, you lead with your strength. His first barrage should have been about his statewide leadership on tax limitation. He has a resume a mile long and numerous taxpayer groups in communities around the state can testify to his efforts to invigorate stronger public profile for those fighting budget and tax growth.

As someone who has tried to spark a statewide compendium of interests opposing a statewide property tax and supporting local and state efforts at tax limitation as the only effective spending limitation, I can testify that no one has served as such a lightening rod for these efforts as Steve Laffey. To portray him as a tax and spend mayor is beyond fiction.


Posted by: brian at October 18, 2005 8:46 AM

If you all are so disgusted with this, why don't you start a letter-writing campaign to the NRSC and threaten to disaffiliate from the party and encourage others to do the same if they do not stop these ads.

I think those who say this will only help the mayor play up the victim role are correct.

But there are some subtle derogatory aspects to the ads which will probably have broad impact. Using the word "bizarre" in the way they do, for example. As they say in the ad biz, it has the ring of truth. Never mind the content.

Posted by: citizenjane at October 18, 2005 10:39 AM

While I understand your sentiments, disaffiliating from the GOP is a non-starter. We're not going to be driven from the party by people like that. I'm registered as a Republican, because I am a conservative, and conservatives are more likely to win office being Republicans. Lincoln was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, and Ronald Reagan was a Republican (after he was a Democrat for a while). If this were a parliamentary democracy, I'd probably reconsider that.

That being said, I think the biggest threat would be to their wallets. Witholding money to the national party and letting them know why you're witholding it seems to be a good starting point.

The only derogatory thing I can think of the ads regarding the "bizarre" aspect is that it comes very close to labeling him, or using terms often described for the mentally ill. Knowing people who suffer from mental illness, I don't consider that funny. They better be very careful, or otherwise it might come back to bite them in the end.

Posted by: Will at October 18, 2005 12:10 PM

The "DC elites" are not afraid of Laffey as somebody stated before. And as far as giving Laffey name recognition, they are, but not the recognition Laffey wants.

The NRSC is following a formula they feel is successful, and probably has been in the past around the country. And that is come out attacking, before a challenger can get started.

They have millions of dollars, that they are going to put behind this race, as proven already. And Chafee is at the top of their list of seats to retain. Face it, Republicans in RI have a Senate seat we don't deserve. Its the bluest state in the country, and the NRSC considers this seat priceless. They will do whatever to keep it and if murder was legal, the NRSC would do its worst.

Get over it, the ads are becoming a bigger issue than they really should be. It happens all over the country.

Posted by: Robert at October 18, 2005 12:36 PM

There's something to be said about citizenjanes's comments.

If you don't believe in what the RNC and NRSC are doing, maybe you should leave the Republican Party and form a Conservative Party as was done in New York.

Attacking the GOP simply because it is trying its hardest to retain a Senate majority is counterproductive. I understand people may disagree with the decision, but the GOP has made a decision. The time for trying to change that organizational decision in this race has long since past.

It reminds me of people who say they are Catholic, but are pro-choice and don't recognize the Vatican as an organization with moral authority. If that's the case, then you really have to ask yourself if you really should be a member of the organization.

Conversely, a person can hold similar beliefs to those held by an organization without being a member of the organization itself. In this case, the national GOP has made a call about who would best serve to advance the party's interests and it has decided that Chafee is that person. My guess is that the RNC doesn't agree with alot of Chafee's ideology, but organizationally they believe he's the only chance to keep the seat Repbulican. And the national GOP isn't going to change its mind any more than the Catholic Church is going to abolish the papacy.

Those people who hold conservative beliefs, but can't bring themselves to support the organizational strategy adopted to promote those beliefs, might also be best served by creating a separate party.

Besides Laffey really hasn't given the national GOP any reason to change its position.

If Laffey had provided the national GOP any objective evidence showing he could win a statewide race, my guess is the national GOP would have stayed out of the race as they did with the Specter race in PA. After the much maligned Projo poll showing Chafee ahead, I kept waiting for Laffey to release his poll results that supposedly showed him winning. That never happened either. Instead, Laffey responds by attacking the organization.

Republicans took control of the House and Senate because they had a better organization than the Democrats. As soon as individuals put themselves above the organization, discipline breaks down, you can't operate in a coordinated fashion and you lose races. Just look at the Democrats.

As for the ads, you can bet that the national GOP is conducting tracking polls on the ads that are running and if they're still running them, it probably means that Laffey's negatives are growing.

Posted by: Anthony at October 18, 2005 12:57 PM

I agree that it's too late to change the tack already taken by the NRC and NRSC, but it does not follow that disappointment with the strategic choice should lead one to disassociate from the GOP. It is not productive to "take the ball and go home."

Let us not forget that this is still the "Primary" stage of the Senate contest. The Republican Party purports to be, and I believe is, the true "big tent" party. As such, this kind of debate between ideological conservatives, Laffeyites, party loyalists, political pragmatists, etc. is to be entirely expected. This debate can be manifested in any number of ways, whether it be via commentary, donating to the Party, not donating to the Party, etc. This internal debate is exactly what's supposed to occur. It is the vetting process that every party goes through every election. The process puts them through their paces and hopefully readies them for the larger general election.

Finally, to imply that those who support Laffey endanger Republican organization and discipline is off the mark. Such a remark indicates a conflation of party discipline with party organization.

Yes, party organization helped get out the vote and it was the Republicans winning "on the ground" that helped GWB get elected in 2004. However, the main reason Democrats have lost races isn't because of lack of organization or party discipline.

Their get-out-the-vote organizational skills are well known, if they fell a sliver short in 2004. And, if nothing else, they've been more disciplined than Republicans in the seemlessness and predictability of their rhetoric and talking points. Rather, the Democrats have been losing because of their lack of real ideas.

Ideas are a prime mover in motivating people. If nothing else, the debate here at Anchor Rising--over both Laffey/Chafee and Harriet Miers--shows that there is no lack of ideas, in opposition though they may be, within the GOP. (In fact, Rush Limbaugh's recent piece on the Miers debate is germane to this point). To recommend that we subsume ideas for the sake of party loyalty would undermine the heart and soul of the GOP, the party of ideas.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at October 18, 2005 2:05 PM

Electing a conservative from Rhode Island (which by the way Laffey has admitted that he is not) is totally impossible. While Chafee may not even be close to a true conservative, he votes with the President almost 80% of the time while his counterpart Senator Reed only votes with the President 65% of the time. It's the lesser of two evils and we need to keep the Senate. I'm not thrilled with a lot of what's going on but we need to be realistic and just understand that the national committees are not only working on this race but will also be helping Santorum, Kyl, etc, get reelected.

Posted by: Rex Manning at October 18, 2005 3:15 PM

Well, with an attitude like that we certainly aren't going to elect any conservatives in Rhode Island! What exactly do you call Don Carcieri, a flaming liberal?

The Berlin Wall will never fall; the Soviet Union will be around forever; Mondale is going to beat Reagan in '84; the GOP will never takeover Congress; the GOP can't add seats in the House and Senate in 2002. Get the point? You really need to challenge your assumptions. You know what happens when we assume?

While Laffey may not be the ideal conservative, nor even choose to identify himself with that label, simply put, he's conservative enough where it counts. By any measure, he's easily more conservative than Sen. Chafee (so is about 1/2 of the Democrat caucus!).

I'm sorry, but I'm not voting for the "lesser of the two evils." I'm either voting for someone who shares most of my values, or I'm not voting at all. Ronald Reagan once said, that if you agree with someone at least 85% of the time, then you can work with them. Politicians shouldn't take my or anyone else's vote for granted.

Posted by: Will at October 18, 2005 4:52 PM

Will, you're exagerating a little. While Chafee is the most liberal Senate Republican, only one Democrat senator has a more conservative voting record than Chafee.

Also, I'd be careful about comparing Carcieri with Chafee. He had the early support of many top Democrats such as Richard Oster, one of the DNC's top contributors and Carcieri's boss at Cookson America. During the general election, Carcieri received support from the Pires and Whitehouse organizations. That isn't going to happen again in '06 and Laffey definately won't receive the same suppport.

Which brings up another question. Given Carcieri's low poll numbers, low fundraising numbers and the fact that he's not running against Myrth York, why are some conservatives more concerned about unseating Chafee and less concerned about making sure Carcieri is re-elected?

Is it because people assume Carcieri is safe?

Is it because the governorship is term-limited while the Senate has no limits?

Is it because people care more about federal issues than state issues?

I'd be interested in hearing the responses.

Posted by: Anthony at October 18, 2005 8:37 PM

I don't consider it exaggeration. I call it hyperbole ;)

As for the comment regarding Governor Carcieri "Is it because people assume Carcieri is safe?" No, it's because he has a positive track record of accomplishment to run on. It's also because I believe that Rhode Islanders are actually smart enough to realize that his presence in the governorship has been the sole reason for virtually anything and everything positive that has occured over the last several years in RI. We would not have had Separation of Powers, we'd probably have had a casino, we would not have had the level of job creation, etc. I could go on. If it were not for him protecting us from the notorious excesses of the General Assembly leadership, we'd have since gone belly up.

I've learned never take anything for granted -- even here. That being said, I cannot for the life of me believe that the citizens of the state of Rhode Island, would take the governorship from someone with no agenda but our well-being, who has done his best for the people of this state, and just hand it over to a card-carrying liberal hack, with half a brain on a good day.

I will work hard to re-elect Gov. Carcieri. That being said, I am truly not worried about the eventual result; only the margin of victory on Election Day.

Posted by: Will at October 19, 2005 1:03 AM

At the end of the day, it's still a wicked funny ad!

Posted by: Sarh at October 25, 2005 4:56 PM