February 28, 2007

Where Your Contributions to the Rhode Island GOP Went

Carroll Andrew Morse

From a dishearteningly informative article from Mark Arsenault of the Projo

The Rhode Island Republican State Central Committee spent nearly five times as much in the 2006 election on consulting fees to people connected to the party than it gave to its own General Assembly candidates, who then failed to pick up any seats.

After providing more than $80,000 in cash and in-kind donations to its State House candidates in 2004, the state Republican Party provided cash donations totaling just $5,095 to a dozen legislative candidates last year, according to campaign finance reports. Those donations, coming three weeks before the general election, ranged from $270 to $500 per candidate.

Here’s Arsenault’s breakdown of the “five times” figure…
  • ”$8,300 in consulting fees to the Torrey Group, the firm of Jeffrey Britt, a consultant who advises Carcieri”.
  • ”$2,000 for consulting by Carcieri campaign worker Mark McKiernan”.
  • ”$2,000 for consulting by Adam Gabrault, whom a state party spokesman also identified as a former Carcieri campaign worker”.
  • ”$11,630 for legal work by Giovanni Cicione, a former U.S. House candidate who is currently campaigning to be chairman of the Rhode Island GOP”.
  • ”About $30,000 in fees paid last year to Darcie Johnston, a Vermont-based fundraising consultant who also worked for Carcieri and former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee”.
  • ”$6,192 last August to the consulting firm Northeast Strategies”.
The article also has a reaction from “party spokesman” Chuck Newton…
“We spent too little on candidates and we spent too little on consultants that could do us some good….Do I think we overspent on consultants? No. Do I think we underspent on candidate support? Yes. Would loved to have done both, but we didn’t have the wherewithal.”

Newton said the party tried a new strategy in the last election cycle: hiring full-time staff to help oversee the campaign. “Those dollars to fund the full-time staff were not available for candidates,” he said. “What we chose to do is provide resources for candidates without putting money directly into their hands.” The staff, including Newton and field director Andrew Berg, recruited candidates, updated the party’s voter database, researched the voting records of incumbent Democrats, and developed campaign strategy, among other duties — all of which benefited Republicans running for local offices, Newton said.

It would be interesting to hear...
  1. From the current candidates for statewide Republican party officer postions, if they also believe that the consultant-heavy strategy was on the right track, just underfunded.
  2. From candidates and volunteer campaign staff from the previous election cycle, what benefit they saw from all of this consultant spending trickle down to them.

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I didn't give any money to the RI GOP, so I don't have a right to criticize how money was spent because it wasn't mine. The only two groups who have a right to criticize are the contributors and those candidates who the consultants were to support (Carcieri and Chafee).

I do have a few thoughts that I thought I'd share. I don't find the article to be "disheartening" so much as I think it would make me ask further questions IF I had given to the RI GOP.

The RI GOP's 2004 goal was to elect Assembly candidates. The RI GOP's 2006 goal was to re-elect Carcieri and Chafee, so it doesn't surprise me that little to no money went to General Assembly candidates.

No candidate for any office should "rely" on the party. It's not welfare, you have to go out and work for yourself. Anything extra is gravy. If Andrew Lyon was promised large amounts of support, he has a right to be upset. Everyone else in the state seemed to know he was a sacrificial lamb going into the race against Caprio, why didn't he?

Contributors have the right to ask how their money was spent and the party should explain to them why the money was spent on each consultant and what return was given.

If I were a contributor, I wouldn't have a problem with Darcie Johnston getting 30,000 if she raised 200,000. But if she raised 50,000 and got paid 30,000, I think that would be wrong.

What did the party get for the 11,630 paid for legal work? Was this routine poll-checking that could be done by volunteers or did it involve actual litigation?

What consulting did Jeffrey Britt, Mark McKiernan, Adam Gibrault do?

How much of the spent money were funds raised by the RI GOP and how much of the spent money came from national transfers?

These are the types of questions that I'd want answered IF I were a donor.

Posted by: Anthony at February 28, 2007 10:55 AM

Underfunded? I just checked the Secretary of State's campaign finance website and the FEC site. The RI State Central committee, with help from the RNC raised $1 million dollars. Chuck Newton (whose company "Public Strategies" also benefited from contributions) is quite disengenuous saying "we didn't have the wherewithal".

A little over half of the $1m was the money from the RNC that was supposed to help all candidates.

Does anyone remember, when at the special meeting of the State GOP the Governor called all the Republican legislators up in front of the podium , then for contrast he had all the Republicans who ran for a legislative seat up to the front. With big circular motions of his hands over the heads of 50, 60 people he said "This money is for YOU!"

What I also found on the campaign finance reporting site is that the party did not hold back on lavish expenses for parties, hotel rooms and rental cars. On September 11, when most Americans were reflecting on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, the state GOP was throwing a wild party at Daves Bar and Grill to the tune of $1,058.53!

Posted by: Perry Ellis at February 28, 2007 11:12 AM

I did not give any money to the RIGOP last year, even though I am a RIGOP state central committee delegate (or more accurately, because I am one). Very few potential Republican donors, except those trying to by some influence, trust that when they give money to the state party, that it will be spent in such a way that it directly benefits candidates, regardless of "connectedness." You will have a lot more confidence that your money will go to candidates, if you just give them the money directly. Until the culture that's run the party into the ground changes, their approach to wasting money is not going to change either. We need fresh blood.

The consultant fees paid were outrageous, given the paltry sum that we had to begin with. This only proves that my prior belief was not simply anecdotal, but was firmly grounded in reality.

Posted by: Will at February 28, 2007 1:38 PM

Well, better that this come out now than after the election for party chairman - Gio can answer the questions in advance, instead of getting blindsided after he is elected.

Posted by: Jake at February 28, 2007 1:56 PM

Given the speculation about Carcieri's lack of support for Cicione, is it possible somebody on the Don's staff leaked this to embarass Cicione and ensure he didn't get the chair?

Posted by: Rhody at February 28, 2007 2:43 PM

Rhody, I think you may be on to something. Or, maybe just "on" something.

Either way its the most sense you've ever made.

Posted by: Perry Ellis at February 28, 2007 3:09 PM

...except Rhody, that this is all publically available information... Not exactly a "leak"...

Posted by: Perry Ellis at February 28, 2007 3:12 PM

"Given the speculation about Carcieri's lack of support for Cicione, is it possible somebody on the Don's staff leaked this to embarass Cicione and ensure he didn't get the chair?"

Rhody is brighter than I thought...

Posted by: Will at February 28, 2007 4:54 PM

What we need is a Republican state party leadership that is really CREDIBLE to the "grass roots",.
Will whether you agree with him or not,is a "go getter" and a leader in the Rhode Island affiliate of the National Association of Republican Assemblies.In fact his leadership extends beyond Rhode island.
Money is not everything but certainly important.However time,organizational skills, and effort are important commodies.
The new Rhode Island GOP State leadership needs to mend fences with the "grass roots" whether they are responsible for the current situation and move forward.I hope this lesson is learned:don't promise what you reasonable know you can't deliver and don't "string people along",.Credibility is a VERY IMPORTANT commodity.
Last year a fund raiser was held to benefit all GOP candidates that attended in the Cranston K.of C.,and the Young Republicans were involved.I attended free as I was a candidate but got no money.My understanding was it was not possible to give out money to the candidates.Frankly with all the candidates that attended I can realize that would have been a virtual impossibility.
I have no personal issues with Giovanni Cicione but he should explain the fees as reported in The Providence Journal.This development could effectively doom his candidacy for State GOP Chair.I am not convinced he is the Governor's choice for State GOP Chair unless that doubt is removed by a statement publicly by Governor Carcieri.
It is a FACT "Joe" White of North Kingstown is running for State GOP Chair and "Dave" Cote of South Kingstown is running for State First Chair."Dave" is currently State GOP Secretary.Both of these men are currently Chairs of their respective Republican Town Committees.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at February 28, 2007 5:12 PM

In the weeks prior to the election I was invited to attend an organizational meeting at a Providence brew pub, ostensibly called by the RIGOP, to solicit volunteer attorneys to serve as poll watchers and "help the party" and "help Republican candidates."

I went, and the only signage was Chafee signs around the perimeter (he made an appearance at one point as well). It quickly became clear that the “RIGOP” had been commandeered to serve (virtually exclusively) as an appendage of the Chafee campaign (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s been that way for the past forty years).

Days before the election I received a call from someone on the Chafee campaign asking if I was going to attend the next (and final) organizational / training meeting scheduled on the Sunday before election day.

I ended up sending a scathing email declining to help, indicating that it was clear that this was only a Chafee effort, and that while I recognized that Chafee was the “legal” Republican candidate, after his solicitation and use of Democrats to crossover and hijack the Republican primary, I did not consider Chafee to be a legitimate Republican candidate.

As long as the RIGOP is the political version of “Pee Wee” Chafee’s Playhouse, the party will continue its multi-decade slide – from its current irrelevance to its eventual extinction.

Posted by: Tom W at February 28, 2007 5:24 PM

This whole situation is so typical of the Carcieri/Chafee/Jackvony crowd. THese people are in it for themselves. When Carcieri stood in front of the crowd at that state party meeting about the money from the RNC, it was obvious that he was lying. You cannot trust Carcieri as far as you can throw him. I don't have to agree with you, but if I can't trust you I have no use for you. I'm sure that is one of the reasons that Fogarty came so close to beating Carcieri - not many do trust him. Heck, just look at how stupid Carcieri is with those big raies and positions when he is asking others to take time off.
Carcieri has no interest in creating a viable state party. His backing of Morgan is proof of that. Oh yeah, Don, real sharp pick that one. WHoever Carcieri supports for state party chair, we should all be against.
The RIGOP is going nowhere with Carcieri, or any of his cronies. The guy barely got himslef re-elected running against a poster child for everything wrong in RI. You think he has the ability to get others elected?

Posted by: jbharris at February 28, 2007 8:58 PM

Tom W,
The RNC and RI GOP were attempting to save the US Senate Republican majority. They thought that Chafee's seat would be key to retaining the majority. In hindsight, they were 110% right.

As for this story being a leak from someone in the Carcieri camp, I'd want to see more evidence. Carcieri could simply say "I don't think it's your time to be chair" in a personal meeting with Cicione and that would end his bid.

I give credit to Cicione for stepping up and running for chair. I don't know him and don't agree with all of his stated priorities (cleaning up voter lists will most likely have a minimal positive impact and wouldn't be my highest priority), but he is putting himself out there and is trying to have a positive impact on the RI GOP.

As Teddy Roosevelt said-

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

Posted by: Anthony at March 1, 2007 1:28 AM

More candidates emerge for state GOP offices

A handful of Republicans have come forward today to express interest in running for the state party leadership team.

Only one of them, however, is seeking the top spot. David Cote, chairman of the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee, has paired with his counterpart in North Kingstown, Joe White, in seeking the chair and vice chairmanship, respectively.

Cote and White submitted a joint letter of intent to the state party office today. The deadline for submissions is Friday; a state party official said he expects more candidates to come forward in the next two days.

Posted by: Will at March 1, 2007 2:39 AM

Anthony - Spin Doctor for the status-quo

In all his 800 word diatribes, Anthony offers no prescription for change, only enabling support for the people in power who are afraid to fight for the people.

The opposition party will not make any gains in this state until it has a leader and a membership that is fed up and ready to fight. Gio is just one of the takers. He'll change nothing, ESPECIALLY if he is Carcieri's pick.

Posted by: Perry Ellis at March 1, 2007 2:13 PM

>>The RNC and RI GOP were attempting to save the US Senate Republican majority. They thought that Chafee's seat would be key to retaining the majority. In hindsight, they were 110% right.

I am well aware of the "stated reasons."

It is premised on the assumption that Laffey couldn't beat Whitehouse - yes, the conventional wisdom, but dubious on the merits. For example, Whitehouse couldn't degate his way out of a paper bag.

It is also premised on the idea that hijacking a Republican primary - using Democrats - is kosher.

Spending resources on keeping a de facto Democrat in office is a bastardization of the GOP.

"Calling all Democrats" to hijack a Republican primary is UNFORGIVABLE.

I'm GLAD that Chafee lost. And if he runs for Governor (God help us) I WILL NOT support him.

Let call back his Democrat buddies to vote for him ...

Posted by: Tom W at March 1, 2007 2:44 PM

Yes, it was based on the premise that Laffey couldn't win statewide.

And you know what? Laffey couldn't even win his own voting precinct or a Republican primary or the independents who voted in the GOP primary. The only other group he could turn to for support in a general election would have been registered Democrats and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that they weren't voting for him either.

Now before you start with the "Crossover Democrats stole the election for Chafee" line, you should do some research. If you take the time to analyze the primary results, you'll find out the Laffey didn't lose because "Democrats crossed over". He also lost big among independents who had voted in prior Republican primaries. If believing that the election was "stolen" or "hijacked" helps you get to sleep at night, go ahead and continue to believe it. It worked for Al Gore and he got an Oscar so maybe it helps 'build self-esteem'.

I'm not going to get into re-debating the GOP Senate primary. You got what you wanted. The Democrats control the Senate and are talking about abandoning Iraq. You can bet that they'll allow pro-choice, activist judges through the Senate Judiciary Committee. But you sent your message, so you should be ecstatic.

Just don't start talking about how the party didn't help people if you didn't contribute to the party. Because the reality is that if Laffey hadn't caused millions of dollars to be pointlessly spent on an quixotic run for an office that everyone in RI knew he wasn't going to win, the GOP would still be controlling the Senate and more than likely more money would have been spent on other Rhode Island candidates.

Now Perry, if you have been reading my comments over the past year, you should have seen that I have offered several ideas to improve upon the status quo in RI.

Posted by: Anthony at March 1, 2007 9:48 PM

This comment is in reference to a comment posted by Anthony. I was asked by Senator Chafee and the Governor, along with Ms. Morgan to run. I was asked one day before declaration day. I made a quick decision to help our Party, our Governor and spread the word. I was promised financial assistance. I believed it was not fare for me to take money from friends and family when I was at a severe disadvantage. I gave up a winnable race against Conners in Cumberland. Yes, sacrifical but I did not appreciate promises being broken when I have been a loyal soldier in trying to grow our Party. It was an uphill battle but I wanted to run a respectable race not only for me but for our Party.

Posted by: Andrew Lyon at March 2, 2007 2:02 PM

I've been intrigued reading the comments - both here and on RI FUTURE - about the GOP's consultants.

Where is it written that the parties are responsible for raising the funds necessry for candidates to run for office? One key indication of a candidate's potential with the electorate is how well they do in convincing supports to contribute financially.

To be sure, the parties need to provide support to candidates at every level - but not necessarily financial. Everyone seems to think a dollar in the hand of a candidate is automatically well spent. But not true.

Posted by: RI OBSERVER at March 2, 2007 2:58 PM

What appears to be lost here is not the fact that it may or may not be the State Parties responsibilty to help candidates financially. It is the simple fact that the lame-duck defacto head of the party (The Don) stood at the meeting regarding the 500K and said to all of the candidates that were declared at that time "This money is for you!!!"
If they did not intend to give the money to those candidates, they should have had the "balls" to say, we feel that it is more important for Linc and The Don to win then any of the other races. At least then you don't give foder to the PROJO or Dems and make the State Party look weaker than it already is.

Posted by: David Davis at March 2, 2007 3:34 PM


"I was promised financial assistance. I believed it was not fare for me to take money from friends and family when I was at a severe disadvantage."

I agree that if you were promised money, you should have received it, but your comment makes it sound that you expected money from other people's friends and family, but not your own. Party money is given by people just like your friends and family.

What the party leadership should have told you was "If you raise X amount of dollars and put yourself in a position to win the raise, the party will give you money."

Posted by: Anthony at March 2, 2007 5:51 PM