Matt Brown’s Campaign Finance Woes

In today’s Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron reports on the continuing fallout from Matt Brown’s campaign finance problems…

In a ceremony Thursday in the law offices of Republican Attorney General candidate J. William Harsch, state GOP Chairwoman Patricia Morgan signed on to an FEC complaint already filed by the Hawaii Republican Party.
The complaint charges a “tit for tat” arrangement in which donors who had already contributed the maximum amount allowable under law to the Brown campaign sent donations to Democratic Party organizations in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maine, and then those party organizations contributed a similar amount to Brown.
Brown continues to assert that the matter is about appearance and not substance…
Brown, who has campaigned as a reformer and clean government candidate, has since returned the money, insisting that the arrangement was “completely legal” but acknowledging that it presents a “perception problem.”
Brown campaign spokesman Matt Burgess brushed the complaint off as “just politics. It is Republicans filing complaints against Democrats. It was all completely legal and that’s what the FCC will find.
Asked Thursday if the Brown campaign would do the same thing again, spokesman Matt Burgess said no, but only because it presented a perception problem, not because it was a wrong thing to do.
I suspect that Mr. Brown will eventually be vindicated in a legal sense.
However, this incident shows how campaign finance “reform” has become a barrier preventing the politically unconnected from entering politics. Mr. Brown has (had?) a legitimate shot at a Senate seat because his career in politics allowed him to develop the nationwide connections needed to set up an elaborate fundraising network capable of delivering small contributions from all over the country. Someone who has not made politics their entire career rarely has that kind of access.
Under the current system, the only people who can raise the money needed to run for statewide office are those who are in a position to spend years building a fundraising network, those with the right connections who are granted access to someone else’s established network, or those who are independently wealthy. To level the playing field between the connected and unconnected, a better solution is to simplify campaign finance regulations but increase transparency and tighten up the rules regarding disclosure.
Finally, a question: Do people think that Matt Brown survives this or not? Since the Democratic primary is basically a beauty contest between two candidates with identical positions on the issues, I don’t see what Mr. Brown can do to differentiate himself from Sheldon Whitehouse and bounce back from this.

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johnb
johnb
15 years ago

It seems to me that the “perception” is enough to do Brown in.
This is the only coverage he’s received in the last 3-4 weeks, and I don’t see it settling down for at least another news cycle.
Brown is tainted. He will remain tainted into and through May. By the time the average political observer comes back from their political summer vacations, he’ll still be tainted.
I don’t see him recovering, but why has Sheldon remained so quiet?

Ivan the Elder
Ivan the Elder
15 years ago

Young Sirs: I don’t mean to be rude but have you noticed that no one cares on this site about young Mr. Brown. He is irrelevent to our discussion. What people care about is the good Mayor of Cranston. He just presented his 4th budget and lowered Taxes for all Cranstonians. His speech is at Cranstonri.com as is the diagrams he used. Show that to everyone.
Most of stuff that people try to talk about is nonsense. Not Laffey. I have been around for many years. Too long in fact but I have never seen as serious a young man as this Laffey guy. I watched it on chanel ten that night and I was flabbergasted–cutting taxes. Man that is a great speech.
If your purpose is to have no one come on this site–Keep up the Brown stuff.

bountyhunter
bountyhunter
15 years ago

Very inspiring story, that Cranston turnaround engineered by ‘da Mayor. I can see a younger Gene Hackman playing Laffey in the movie version, which would have kind of a Hoosiers flavor.
The Reagan/Laffey parallels keep surfacing. Reagan was forced to raise taxes in ’67 during his first term as Governor of California once he fully unearthed that state’s budget mess. He was able to lower them roughly two years later with the state on excellent fiscal footing because of excellent mananagement on the part of Reagan’s team of politically-inexperienced yet business-savvy inner circle.
Great communicator, political outsider, goer against the naysayers, initial tax increase because of horrific past practices, later tax reduction, tremendous hacking of government waste, a cabinet of businesspeople rather than career politicos…Is this Reagan starting in ’66 or Laffey starting in ’02? Hard to tell, isnt’ it?
The next development in the Reagan/Laffey parallel is a primary that insiders strongly advised both men not to undertake. Laffey/Chafee can be compared to Reagan/Ford except for one thing: LAFFEY IS GOING TO WIN, AND WIN BIG!!!

Will
15 years ago

To be honest, I’m not sure if Matt Brown is (or ever really was) relevant to the overall Senate race. We know that in the Democratic Party nowadays, that the one with the most connections and establishment backing is going to win the nomination and primary. That’s Sheldon by a mile. All Brown does by not giving up sooner rather than later, is prolonging the inevitable. About the only way that Matt can beat Sheldon in the primary is to get past his self-created mess, and then hope for Sheldon’s complete meltdown over something totally unforeseen.
Anyway, either way you slice it, whomever the Democrats do nominate will have a very tough time if Laffey is the GOP nominee coming out of the September primary. They’ve had a tendency thusfar to grossly underestimate his appeal, both to traditional Republicans, as well as to pro-life Democrats and many anti-establishment Independents. Chafee cannot count on the same folks that elected him in 2000. He certainly can’t hope for Democrats to bail him out.
The only REAL question has more to do with the Republican Primary. Will there actually be one? Or will Chafee do the politically expedient thing and go the independent route, and bypass the GOP completely.

Scott Bill Hirst
15 years ago

Hi! What seems to be missed is this:grass roots establishment Republicans are split between both the Senator and Mayor in the United States Senate race.I think the Mayor should not let his political opponents and media define him like he has.Frankly the City of Warwick did not have the problems Cranston had,( and Mayor Laffey had), when Sen.Chafee took over the mayoralty.Sen.Chafee has to explain better why he is a Republican and remains one. I would like this campaign conducted on a “higher plane” than it has so far.When the history books are written about Laffey’s mayoralty he will be known as a mayor that “turned his city around”!That leadership! I will support the winner of the GOP Senatorial primary.What will be interesting will be the amount of support both men get from various city and town committees and the state committee.Ideally before the GOP state convention members of the Rhode Island Republican State Central Committee should hear both men debate. A couple of observations: 1.Despite his wealth Linc Chafee actually clearly had “visible jobs” for some time, unlike at least two well known prominent Democrats who hold high political office in Rhode Island. 2.It seems that a number of politically active (or former office holders) people give money or have given money or attend fundraisers of candidates of the other party. In closing both Sen.Chafee and Mayor Laffey have given me suppoort when I needed it.Sen.Chafee on the “Big Box” issue in Hopkinton in Hopkinton in my last town council term.He contacted me and actually visited the area where the “Big Boxes” supposedly where to go in.Mayor Laffey,a Hopkinton taxpayer,allowed his name to be placed on the alternate at-large slate of delegates and alternate delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention voted on the 2004 Rhode Island Republican State… Read more »

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