Yowzah: RI Campaign Consultant Arrested for Alleged Campaign Violation

The campaign flyer at the center of this allegedly campaign law violation, and its dissemination at the last minute of the 2012 campaign, was such a nasty maneuver that part of me cheered when I heard that it has resulted in an arrest.
(Jim Archer, candidate for the General Assembly, was the target of the flyer.)

[James Archer’s] complaint centered on a campaign flier and e-mails that appeared in mailboxes in Smithfield, just before the election. They displayed a police report on Archer’s arrest — along with the nephew of another 2012 Republican candidate — on a years-old vandalism charge involving ripped campaign signs that was dismissed by a judge in August 2007, after a three-day trial.
Archer, in his complaint, said the flier suggested he “lacked integrity.”

However, the nastiness per se of the flyer and its last minute distribution is not illegal. In today’s ProJo, Kathy Gregg outlines the prospective violation of campaign law.

[Rob] Horowitz is charged with a misdemeanor violation of a law that says in part: “No person shall intentionally write, print, post, or distribute … a circular, flier, or poster designed or tending to injure or defeat any candidate,” unless the name of the person or organization disseminating the item is “conspicuously” displayed.

Oops, the flyers apparently lacked this information, conspicuously displayed or not. (Kathy helpfully tweeted a link to the law itself.)
At the same time, I’m curious as to what the trigger is for a campaign violation to lead to an arrest. I would have thought campaign law violations would have fallen on the civil infraction, not the criminal, side of the law book. Does this mean that the 237 PACS and candidates who have been hit with fines for not filing, or filing late, their campaign finance reports are all subject to arrest? Can a civil infraction lead to an arrest or did the lack of disclosure itself on the flyer push it into a criminal matter?
I am agog. Consider this an open solicitation for answers on these points.
ADDENDUM
Thanks to Brassband for pointing to the section of Rhode Island law that makes this omission a misdemeanor, as opposed to merely a civil infraction: § 17-23-3.
In fact, § 17-23-3 makes all of the following violations of Rhode Island’s campaign law a misdemeanor.

§ 17-23-1 Signature and labeling of advertising in periodicals. – No person shall publish or cause to be published in any newspaper or other periodical, either in its advertising or reading columns, any paid matter designed or tending to aid, injure, or defeat any candidate for public office or any question submitted to the voters, unless the name of the chairperson or secretary or the names of two (2) officers of the political or other organization inserting the paid matter, or the name of some voter who is responsible for it, with that person’s residence and the street and number, if any, appear in the paid matter in the nature of a signature. The matter inserted in reading columns shall be preceded by or followed by the word “advertisement” in a separate line, in type not smaller than that of the body type of the newspaper or other periodical.
§ 17-23-2 Signature of posters, fliers, and circulars. – No person shall intentionally write, print, post, or distribute, or cause to be written, printed, posted, or distributed, a circular, flier, or poster designed or tending to injure or defeat any candidate for nomination or election to any public office, by criticizing the candidate’s personal character or political action, or designed or tending to aid, injure, or defeat any question submitted to the voters, unless there appears upon the circular, flier, or poster in a conspicuous place the name of the author and either the names of the chairperson and secretary, or of two (2) officers, of the political or other organization issuing the poster, flier, or circular, or of some voter who is responsible for it, with the voter’s name and residence, and the street and numbers, if any.

[Monique is Editor of the RI Taxpayer Times newsletter.]

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brassband
brassband
8 years ago

Here’s the statute that makes it a criminal offense:
———————
§ 17-23-3 Penalty for advertising violations. – Whoever violates any provision of § 17-23-1 or § 17-23-2 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
———————
An arrest warrant for such an offense — as opposed to a summons to appear in District Court — strikes me as rather odd, particularly since the offense apparently occurred over four months ago.
Expect a vigorous First Amendment defense as well.

Max D
Max D
8 years ago

“An arrest warrant for such an offense — as opposed to a summons to appear in District Court — strikes me as rather odd, particularly since the offense apparently occurred over four months ago.”
I’ll bet he pissed off the cops. Either that or just refused to be cooperative. The chief there doesn’t have a partisan bone in his body and a lot of patience.

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