More on the RI GOP’s 2006 Spending Priorities
In response to Mark Arsenault’s report on the money spent by the Rhode Island Republican party on consultants, commenter Sean Gately responds that Giovanni Cicione was paid from so-called “soft money” that could not, by law, have been given to state candidates. Campaign finance records confirm this fact, reporting that Mr. Cicione was paid nothing from the state central committee account.
However, because of the arcane structure of campaign finance laws, there is more to the soft money story that needs some discussion and maybe some explanation as we head into the GOP leadership election. Over the course of 2006, the substantial sum (by RI Republican state-level fundraising standards) of $40,471.65 was transferred from the state party committee to the federal party committee. That’s $40,471.65 that could have been made available to local candidates, but was directed elsewhere.
Most of that $40,471.65 was spent on what would be classified as “overhead”, i.e. salaries for party staff, office overhead, etc. On the surface, these were reasonable expenditures. For instance, the Federal account cut the RI GOP communications director (Chuck Newton) his paycheck, even though he had both federal-level and state-level responsibilities (all duly noted on the campaign finance reports). To allow Mr. Newton to work on state issues, by law, part of his salary must come from state funds. Even if the $40,471.65 had not been transferred from the state to the Federal party, a good chunk of it would have been paid out to party staff directly through the state party committee anyway.
However — and I want to be absolutely clear that I am not alleging corruption here; I am alleging poor spending choices which the incoming Republican party leadership must improve upon if it wants to start winning elections — in this same year that the Federal party committee sucked $40,471.65 out of the state party account, it also spent $17,602.90 on “catering” and “meals” over just four occasions and another $24,256.96 on Comfort Inn hotel rooms. Again, technically these were soft-money Federal expenditures, not available to state candidates, but if the Federal committee could afford to blow $41,859.86 on catering and hotel rooms, did it really need to take all of $40,471.65 away from local candidates who could have used additional funding for communicating directly with voters?
It seems that if the party had spent a little less lavishly on the Senate race (or found a few more deep-pocketed national donors to make-up the difference), the Rhode Island GOP could have approximately quadrupled the money it contributed to state-level candidates, and still had enough to pay a fair portion of the joint Federal/state overhead from state funds. The lack of support for local candidates was more than a simple matter of lack of funding, but a conscious decision that local races were not important.