June 16, 2006

Laffey Responds to the Latest Chafee Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Laffey campaign has responded to the Chafee campaign's latest round of broadcast advertising, going as far as to say that the Chafee campaign is "putting forth utter lies against his primary opponent Mayor Steve Laffey in an attempt to save his political career from impending disaster".

The Laffey campaign takes extreme exception to three claims made by the Chafee campaign. The first two are made in Chafee TV ads...

1. Laffey swore to fight special interests. Instead he gave a city vendor a secret no-bid contract in exchange for thousands in campaign contributions.
Citing a Providence Journal article from November 19, 2005 as support, the Laffey campaign details why they believe the use of the terms "secret" and "no-bid" is not accurate...
  • The City of Cranston engaged in two projects with Nestor Traffic Systems. It is unclear which one Senator Chafee is referring to, but either way, he has his facts all wrong.
  • The first project was a contract the City of Cranston signed with Nestor Traffic Systems to test a system that measures the speed of passing cars in May of 2005. This contract was never a secret. In fact, Mayor Laffey held a press conference on May 8, 2005 announcing the contract. The Providence Journal was there and reported on it on May 9th, as well as multiple news stations.
  • The city did not require a bid because it was a mere $10 contract for a trial phase only. Had the City of Cranston decided to use the technology, it would have put the program out to bid for a long-term contract.
  • The second project occurred in June of 2005, when the City of Cranston awarded a bid to Nestor Traffic Systems for red light cameras AFTER the project went out to bid and Nestor was the lowest bidder. Nestor was awarded the bid by the Board of Contract and Purchase, which Mayor Laffey does not control.
Furthermore, the Chafee campaign has not presented evidence of a quid-pro-quo between Nestor and anyone in Cranston city government to support the "in exchange" claim. If we are to assume something unseemly is going on anytime government contractors make contributions to a campaign, should we apply the same standard to Federal elected officials also? For instance, if a Senator announces that a Federal contract for millions of dollars is being given to a corporation that will be doing work in his state, and then the Senator receives a campaign contribution from that corporation, should that contribution automatically be assumed to be tainted? I think that that's much too harsh a standard.

The second TV-ad complaint concerns Mayor Laffey's spending record in Cranston. Senator Chafee's ad says...

2. Stephen Laffey campaigned to cut spending, but once elected he increased spending nearly 20%.
As the Laffey campaign points out, in terms of percentage increase, the spending records of Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey over their first four years in office as Mayors are very similar. According to the sources cited in the Laffey press release, plus a few others (list)...
  • Cranston went from a budget of $186,000,000 the year before Mayor Laffey took over in Cranston to a budget of $226,200,000 in his fourth year as Mayor. That's an increase of $40,200,000 or 21.6%. Warwick went from a budget of $145,000,000 to a budget of $175,000,000 in Mayor Chafee's first four years in office, an increase of 20.6%
  • The increases in non-school department spending are also roughly similar. Cranston's non-school department budget went from about $90,500,000 in 2003 to $102,400,000 proposed for FY2007, an increase of 11.6%. Warwick went from $72,000,000 to $79,500,000, an increase of 10.4%
  • Warwick, however, already had a budget surplus when Lincoln Chafee took over as Mayor. Cranston was on the verge of bankruptcy when Steve Laffey came into office.
So ultimately, when the Chafee folks argue "look what he does, not what he says" in their negative ads, aren't they arguing a non-sequitur -- don't vote for the challenger, because he has the same record that our incumbent does!

The third complaint by the Laffey campaign is...

3. In his radio ad, Senator Chafee claims he supported the attack against the Taliban.
Marc has already discussed the substance of this claim...
It is incorrect to simply state that Sen. Chafee didn't support attacking the Taliban: he eventually did, even if with reservation. The fact is that Sen. Chafee did support the action and it is not correct to imply--as the Laffey ad does--that Sen. Chafee never supported attacking the Taliban.

The Laffey campaign's subsequent defense of their ad rests on the reluctance of Sen. Chafee to make a firm decision. To my mind, this defense of the actual ad is actually more compelling and (yes) truthful than the original.

The figures on the Warwick budget during Mayor Chafee's first four years in office were taken from a June 9, 1992 Projo article by Elizabeth Rau...

City Council members last night approved a $145 million budget that will require no tax increase next year, but they delayed voting on a substantial cost-cutting measure that enabled them to freeze the tax rate.

Although school officials and parents had pleaded with the council during a hearing on Saturday to give the schools more than the $73 million allocated by Donovan, no additional money was budgeted last night,

...and a June 21, 1996 Projo article by Tony DePaul...
Anticipating that the council might challenge the overall veto, Chafee also used his line-item veto to strike out every line in the council's version of the budget, except for the school appropriation of $ 95.5 million.

Chafee contends that because the council did not override his veto by midnight June 15 - the state deadline for local budget approval - his original $ 175 million budget automatically became law.

The figures on the Cranston budget during Mayor Laffey's first four years in office were taken from a March 27, 2003 Projo article by Scott Mayerowitz...

[Mayor Laffey] urged his audience to attend Monday night's City Council meeting, at which he will submit a $191-million budget that would increase overall spending by nearly $5 million, or 2.5 percent. He has characterized his budget as $11 million short of what would be needed unless fundamental spending changes are made. (This year, the School Department's budget was frozen at the prior year's level, about $95.5 million,
...and from a May 10, 2006 Projo article by Zachary Mider...
The council considered no major changes to Mayor Stephen P. Laffey's $226.2-million budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, instead shuffling money among minor accounts and debating salary adjustments for a few administrators.

Laffey's budget provides $123.8 million for the School Department, a $8.4-million increase but less than the School Committee requested.

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It is becoming more and more apparent that the Chafee campaign is spiraling out of control in their desperate moves to rescue his faltering campaign. Chafee is now resorting to outright lies. It is one thing to spin something - it is another to lie.
To this point, I've been reluctant to believe that Chafee would switch to an independent to save his candidacy. However, the desperation evident in Chafee's lying ads are indicative of someone who will do anything to win - including going independent.

Posted by: Jim at June 16, 2006 9:59 AM

I'm no fan of Laffey, but Chafee's campaign strategy is quickly making it clear that he CANNOT be allowed to win.

The worst part about this November's Senatorial election is that one of the candidates will win.

Posted by: Greg at June 16, 2006 10:16 AM

This is almost a worst-case set of circumstances for this ill-fated Chafee excuse for a campaign. Alienate republicans by saying you don't need them to win and then overtly target democrats and independents. Then proceed to alienate those independents and democrats by initiating a nasty negative smear campaign. Even political hacks know that negative advertising turns off moderates and results in low turnout. Even Chafee must know that he needs a high turnout to have a prayer of winning, perhaps even a record turnout for a RI GOP primary. Trying to be everything to everyone ultimate results in your appealing to virtually no one.

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 16, 2006 12:01 PM

Thank you for pointing all this out. Chafee is obviously already way past desperate at this point. Twelve more days until decision day, and I'm sure he'll use all 12, too. I can't really say whether I greatly care or not if Chafee nominally bolts the GOP. If he stays in the GOP primary, it will probably make it easier to beat him, as he then will be locked in at that point. If he bolts, the vote could get split three ways, and you end up having a senator getting elected without a majority of the popular vote. Almost any way you slice it, Chafee's "political career" is toast.

Posted by: Will at June 16, 2006 1:24 PM

And by the way, where has that erudite, humble, and savvy Kathryn Smith been lately? I hope she is proud of her hack-like work on this putrid stuff emanating from the Chafee bunker. This whole campaign must really be embarassing to the Chafee minions because you hardly ever see the same name supporting Chafee more-than-twice on this board - other than the redoubtable Anthony of course.

In contrast, it is really telling that 15-20 Laffey supporters like myself have consistently contributed commentary to this site over the last six months. We do this because we our proud of what our candidate stands for and proud of his personal integrity and the way his campaign is being run. Onward to Washington!

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 16, 2006 2:00 PM

I'm a new poster to this site although I have checked it sporadically over the last few months for some of the more substantive material that it provides (e.g. Don Hawthorne's fascinating and thorough "Economic Thoughts" series).

The reason I submit my post today is to point out that I recently received a comp invite in the mail to the upcoming Chafee-McCain soiree. I have never given money to the Chafee campaign nor have I given support to his re-election in any way, shape or form (Truthfully, Im still undecided on the Chafee-Laffey question). As far as I can tell, the only reason I received this comp invite was due to the fact that I am a fairly inactive member of my town's GOP committee. I checked with a few of my fellow town committee members and they have also received comp invites.

I wonder how many of these comp invites the Chafee campaign has whipped around the state? Despite their claims of "overwhelming demand," to me it seems a little desperate to be sending out comp invites to obscure GOP Town Committee members

Posted by: Henry Gondorf at June 16, 2006 2:48 PM

Are you the same Henry Gondorf from the movie, "The Sting?" Paul Newman was wonderful in that movie!!

Posted by: Grady Shipley at June 16, 2006 3:20 PM


2:00 PM Post: Paragrpah 2
I couldn't have said it better myself.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at June 16, 2006 5:03 PM


They've sent out a considerable number of comps. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the attendees are "free" ones ... heck, they're only charging $40 a head to begin with. That they're having it in Chafee's yard should tell you that they aren't really spending all that much on it anyway. McCain will be in an out fairly quickly, on his way to prop up another RINO no doubt. In the political vernacular, it's referred to a "chew and screw."

I've actually received a number of invitations to the event myself, as well as an e-mail telling me that if I make 150 calls from Chafee's place, they'll comp me, too. I wouldn't go if they paid me. It's not like they don't already know who I support anyway.

Posted by: Will at June 16, 2006 5:27 PM

Look, no one seriously believes that Chafee would run as independent. The only person who benefits in a three way race is Steve Laffey. So while his supporters may try to spread falsehoods and innuendo to create an issue, just about everyone else knows that Chafee is the 800 lbs. gorilla in this race.

As for McCain, I'm sure the point of the event was not to raise money but to show Rhode Islanders that John McCain and Linc Chafee stand side by side. That's a powerful message considering McCain's popularity in RI. Even Steve Laffey praised McCain in this morning's Projo.

Posted by: Anthony at June 17, 2006 5:28 AM

On "comps" - those complimentary tickets that solons expect to be given to them for every event: I was told by someone who attended the Laura Bush event that more than half the tickets there were comps - and it was not just the freeloader politicians who got in for the bubble. Let's see how much Hamlet pulled in for that event on the next filing.

On Hamlet going Independent: you bet your sweet bippy that he's considering it. Heck, he was considering it when everything was peaches and cream for him, and now that he's embarrassing himself all over the place and being pummeled by Laffey, the choice to go Indy like his buddy "Jumpin" Jim Jeffords is front and center.

My prediction is that Hamlet did not raise much money from the Laura Bush event, that he goes Independent at the very last minute to save his hide, and that the Remoras like Anthony will need a new host come November.

Posted by: oz at June 17, 2006 7:01 AM

I would jut like to comment as a Chafee volunteer at the Chafee/McCain and at the Chafee/Bush events. At the McCain event at the door they were lining people up and taking checks, when we counted the number of checks in the end it was over 300, not counting the checks sent in advance. I worked at the Laura Bush event too, and there were over 100 people who wrote checks at the door. I just wanted to mention this so you all can stop your ridiculous speculation about the reality of Chafee's support. I think it is apparent that you are all just looking for excuses, after all it was Chafee, not Laffey, who McCain and Bush came out for. Furthermore, whoever you are getting your information from must have given Chafee money in order to attend the events, so we Chafee supporters thank you for you contributions.

Posted by: Eli at June 20, 2006 10:20 PM

Oz dear, I wonder who your not-so-credible source is in reference to the myriad comps at the Laura Bush event. Didn't the ProJo run an article on the $250,000.00 raised there? Seeems to me that the Laura Bush event, as well as all other fundraisers in the Chafee campaign are an attestation to overwhelming support of the natives of Rhode Island. Now, that's not to say Mr. Laffey hasn't raised this kind of money well as well--out of state that is. Too bad Pennsylvanians can't cast their vote in the Rhode Island Primaries.

Posted by: Captain Jack Sparrow at June 20, 2006 11:19 PM