April 25, 2006

The Problems with the Indeglia Letter

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Associated Press has a report on a problematic independent campaign expenditure in support of Steve Laffey…

Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey yesterday distanced himself from a letter a supporter wrote to his employees asking them to aid Laffey's Senate campaign…

The letter, written last week by Vincent Indeglia, president of [a] Providence employment agency, criticizes Laffey's opponents for their positions on immigration and asks employees to turn over names and contact information of every U.S. citizen they know. Indeglia said he left 50 to 100 copies on the desk where as many as 200 workers pick up their paychecks on Fridays…

We had no idea about this letter," said Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for Laffey's campaign. "Had he asked us, we would have told him, 'Don't do this. Please don't do this.' We encourage him to take whatever steps needed to fix this."

It is a reasonable to assume that Mr. Indeglia didn't contact the Laffey campaign for fear of running afoul of the current campaign finance laws. Had Mr. Indeglia contacted the Laffey campaign before sending out his letter, the answer that Ms. Soloveichik would have given is the only answer that would not turn an independent expenditure into a coordinated in-kind contribution subject to campaign speech regulations.

Campaign finance laws that discourage people from talking directly to candidates before issuing public support need, at the very least, to be rethought.

Coordination issue aside, Mr. Indeglia may also be in violation of the “no corporate contributions” provisions of campaign finance regulations…

The letter, written on American Labor Services, Inc., letterhead by its president, asks workers to help register Hispanic citizens to vote in the Republican primary. It could violate laws that prohibit corporations from telling hourly workers which candidates to support, according to former and current Federal Elections Commission officials.
But whatever the camapign speech restrictions, Mr. Indeglia should have taken the time to get the policy positions of all of the candidates that he mentioned in his letter correct. Instead, he appears to have inaccurately portrayed the positions of both Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse on the issue of immigration…
Spokespeople for the candidates mentioned in the letter said Indeglia did not accurately express their views on the issue.

The letter said Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic candidate, want to deport illegal immigrants and make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens, while Laffey supports allowing people to become legal residents and citizens if they choose.

However, Chafee and Whitehouse support legislation that would give illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they paid a fine and met other conditions. Laffey wants to secure the nation's border with Mexico, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and create a strict guest worker policy.


In today’s Projo, Katherine Gregg has an extensive article on the direct mail letters that both Republican Senate candidates have been sending out.

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.

Zealous supporters should always check with the legal department at any campaign's HQ before publishing anything.

If I were Mr. Indeglia I would just apologize and move on.

In fact that is what Mrs. Chafee should have done too after realizing that her e-mail was a huge mistake and a major insult to RI republicans.

I wonder how long it will take for that to happen?


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 25, 2006 11:27 AM

Given the lack of regulations on the speech and publishing rights of campaign spouses, it's difficult to equate the two situations.
Indeglia is well within his rights to host a Laffey fundraiser (per today's ProJo), and as long as Mrs. Chafee isn't trying to strongarm employees for contributions, she has to apologize for nothing.

Posted by: rhody at April 25, 2006 2:55 PM

Indeglia's letter intentionally misrepresented Chafee's position on immigration and violated the law, while Mrs. Chafee's letter contained no misrepresentations and was completely legal. I agree with rhody, Indeglia's letter was wrong both from a legal and ethical perspective. He needs to apologize.

Perhaps, I jumped the gun. Maybe Indeglia didn't intentially misrepresent the Chafee position. If it was unintentional, then you have to ask whether he just didn't factfind or whether Chafee's position was misrepresented to him by someone else.

The misrepresentation of Chafee's position is more important to me than Indeglia's violation of law. It is doubtful that he had any clue about federal campaign finance laws.

However, Indeglia's telling Latino workers that Chafee wants to deport their friends and family is irresponsible, if the misrepresentation was unintentional. If it was an intentional misrepresentation, it's simply a despicable example of scare tactics.

I can only imagine what would be said had a Chafee supporter misrepresented Laffey's positions.

Posted by: Anthony at April 25, 2006 3:39 PM

Sorry, rhody. I meant to say I agree with you that Mrs. Chafee doesn't need to apologize. I don't know if you think Indeglia needs to apologize or not, so I have no way of knowing if I'm in agreement with you.

Posted by: Anthony at April 25, 2006 3:42 PM

Mr. rhody:

We meet again.

Common sense, a better grasp of the English language and a little close thinking would tell you that comparing and equating are two very different things.

With that in mind the comparison in Mr. Venturi's post regards the apology issue not any similarities or differences in the two letters.

I believe he is saying Mr. Indegila should apologize for his faux pas and Mrs. Chafee should apologize for her insult to the members of RI Republican party, many of whom will probably now be voting for Mr. Laffey. Maybe Mayor Laffey should send her a thank you note.

J Mahn

PS. I in fact have heard that Mr. Indeglia has indeed apologized. Now its Mrs. Chafee’s turn.

Posted by: Joe Mahn at April 25, 2006 3:45 PM

For democracy to properly flourish in society our legislatures must strive to protect the autonomy of all voters to make their own political decisions, free from the undue influence of individuals or corporations that might use their financial, political, or social might to sway voters based on anything other than these voters’ own interests. Voter autonomy is a cornerstone of any democracy. To compromise the freedom of voters to choose their own candidates for their own reasons is to compromise the strength of a nation’s democratic foundation. Individual liberty as a protectorate of government will endure only so long as it is born of individual liberty in elections.

The 20th and 21st centuries have been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy. With economic power comes political power.

That being said, our Constitution ensures that corporate propaganda cannot cross the line into corporate coercion. The individual liberty of voters is preserved regardless of their relative political influence. Corporations may seek to influence the hearts and minds of the general voting population by hiring lobbying firms, buying advertisements, or pressuring news organizations. But legislation is in place to ensure corporations cannot force voters who they employ to vote in lock-step with corporate interests.

Since the arrival of the internet-era, employers have ever more means to communicate with employees at virtually any time, through cell phone, e-mail, palm pilot, etc. As such, we must be particularly vigilant in our efforts to ensure the ties that bind employee to employer remain purely commercial. Should commercial ties entangle political ties, the threat to democratic decision-making in this country will be great. Corporate propaganda will intrude upon and obstruct the freedom every voter needs to ensure his or her vote is, truly, his or her own vote--not his or her boss's vote.

For these reasons, I find Indeglia’s letter and Laffey’s potential complicity particularly offensive. For an employer to suggest to employees that he favors one political candidate over a second political candidate is unprofessional. For an employer to encourage employees to agree with him is illegal. For an employer to suggest to employees that their paychecks are linked to their support is an egregious affront to voter autonomy and absolutely corrosive to the workings of our democratic government.

One can imagine the anxiety workers felt, confronted by paychecks for their honest work lying in close proximity to a political endorsement from the boss. I would not be surprised if some felt that their future income depended on their cooperation with Indeglia’s opinion. Laffey himself has admitted that pressure from his boss caused him to donate to Democratic candidates—surely not the type of person Laffey agreed with on many political issues (unless his status as a Republican is a complete sham).

People of all political persuasions would agree that direct corporate pressure compromises the ability of voters to select candidates based solely on their perceptions of these candidates ability to provide effective leadership. There is a reason we put campaign finance laws in place, and little mercy ought to be shown to those who yield there commercial might in an attempt to coerce voters on their payrolls.

I am calling for a full inquiry into Laffey’s involvement in this scandal. The last thing a candidate for election ought to do is inhibit the clamor of democratic conversation that makes American democracy work. It seems Laffey did just this.

Posted by: Adam Smith at April 25, 2006 3:50 PM


You're on the blog. Read most of the Chafee supporter’s comments. They continually, consistently, and contemptibly spend countless hours misrepresenting Mr. Laffey's positions. And in very poor English I might add.

Thankfully anyone can read his positions for themselves. They are clearly laid out on his very thorough web site, www.electlaffey.com.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 25, 2006 3:55 PM

To clarify, if Indeglia intentionally misrepresented, he needs to apologize to the Chafee campaign (and Whitehouse's - his position was misstated, too).
As far as whether Laffey actively participated in this, it would be very difficult to prove by a legal standard - voters may have to make this call on their own.

Posted by: Rhody at April 25, 2006 4:42 PM

Adam Smith:

Your eloquent preface and preposterous allegations of Mr. Laffey being complicit in any of this are representative of only the lowest forms of political propaganda.

Tell Karl and Ken I said hi. They'll remember me.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at April 25, 2006 4:45 PM

Sol, indeed! I second your last.

"Adam Smith" in his plagearistic diatribe (and in others when he might be "James" or "Rhody" or "Rich") fails to mention one good thing about Senator Chafee.

On the issues, on their records and accomplishments, Laffey stands tall above the diminutive Chafee.

That is why the NRSC, the State GOP and the Chafee camp can only resort to attacks about such unimportant things. The Senator himself is too chicken to take a stand on any issue. That is why he won't debate Laffey.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at April 25, 2006 4:48 PM

Sol, Stretch, and the rest of the gang,
Bringing Mrs. Chafee into it obfuscates the real issue - Mr. Indeglia broke the law! The question is, did he do it at the behest of Steve Laffey. I ask this because Mr. Indeglia's letter mentions compiling names for a list. It seems a little unlikely that he would do all this without the knowledge of the Laffey people. This seems particularly unlikely when they were working together to host a fundraiser.
But bravo gang on trying to change the subject by bringing Mrs. Chafee into it.

Posted by: James at April 25, 2006 8:56 PM


Unlike your Mrs., the “gang”, and Mr. Indeglia himself, have acted uprightly after a major faux pas. The repentant Indeglia has publicly apologized for his obvious but innocent mistake, innocent being the key word.

Your bullying attacks on a contrite man and your feeble attempts to embroil Laffey, a meticulously scrupulous man, speaks of both bitterness and malice on your part. Am I wrong here?

You should be ashamed of yourself, and Mrs. C still owes the Republicans of the State an apology for her gross misuse of the party primary system.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 25, 2006 10:35 PM

I find it curious that a few weeks ago, Steve Laffey justified the large campaign contributions he made to Democrats by saying his boss told him to. Now we find out that he's associated with a guy who uses the same tactic, except with hourly employees, and who goes one better by basically implying "vote for Laffey or there could be a knock at door." Strangely, Steve Laffey is distancing himself from Mr. Indeglia, but not from the money he's raising for him. Is he going to cancel the fundraiser?

Posted by: Brian Taft at April 25, 2006 11:12 PM

T.S., the letter seems designed less to get the truth out about Laffey and more to provide misinformation about his opponents.

This is dangerous territory. Forget the campaign finance technicalities, Indeglia's letter enter the gray area of the Voting Rights Act which addresses the idea of providing misinformation to minority populations that speak English as a second language. The VRA is enforced by the Justice Dept. which can prosecute certain violations criminally.

Laffey should be thankful that Chafee's campaign is just ignoring the letter. All it takes is one phone call to a DOJ Civil Rights hotline from Joe Six-Pack and an investigation could begin. The VRA is designed to let virtually any private citizen file a complaint (remember Florida 200?) and the threshhold for an investigation is low. DOJ might find it to be an honest mistake and that Laffey's campaign was not directly involved, but it's never a good thing to have to explain to the press why you're responding to a civil rights complaint.

If I were in Laffey's camp, I'd just be thankful to let this one go and move on.

Posted by: Anthony at April 25, 2006 11:21 PM

Was driving to work today and got a twofer. Laffey on the radio, man was he good and laffey on a street corner as I headed onto rt 24. happy guy with his team of volunteers out at 6:30 am. must scare the daylights out of everyone.

Posted by: SamBam at April 26, 2006 1:28 PM

It seems he definately scares the daylights out of George W. Bush, Bill Frist and Elizabeth Dole.

On the brighter side, he's got Harry Reid and Teddy Kennedy pulling for him.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 3:28 PM