AAA Southern New England Becomes a Political Action Committee


As a AAA member since 1992, when my late mother insisted that I join, I was disappointed (to say the least) to see WPRI’s Ted Nesi tweet, during a long RI Senate hearing on Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s toll-and-borrow infrastructure plan, that AAA Southern New England is officially in favor of bringing widespread tolling to Rhode Island.

When the roadside-assistance organization released a poll, recently, showing that a relatively narrow majority of its members support Raimondo’s RhodeWorks plan, I was willing to let it slide as purely an information activity, even though people with whom I agree on the issue suggested that it had essentially been a push poll that obscured the difference between supporting road repairs and supporting tolls.  (N.B., I was not polled.)  Sending a lobbyist to actually put the organization on a particular side of the issue is an entirely different matter.

According to the Secretary of State’s Lobby Tracker, Lloyd Albert, the Senior Vice President of Public & Government Affairs for AAA Northeast whom Nesi had named as offering testimony, collects $100 per hour to lobby in Rhode Island.  Another lobbyist for the company, Mark Shaw, collects $150 per hour.  Some portion of my most recent membership check, in other words, went toward paying Mr. Albert to argue for a major government revenue grab that I believe will be terrible for the state.

Of course, even if my money all went to Albert, it wouldn’t have covered a full hour of hanging out at the State House.  The state government, by contrast, gives AAA enough money to have covered its entire $21,000 lobbying bill last year.  According to RIOpenGov, the state Dept. of Administration paid AAA an average of $21,222 per year from 2010 through 2014.  According to the state’s transparency site, the Governor’s Workforce Board began giving AAA Southern New England thousands of dollars a year, as well, in 2014 — $18,100 in fiscal year 2014, $500 in fiscal 2015, and $8,523 so far in fiscal 2016.

Yesterday, I noted that the private-sector groups that should offer some counter-force to the agents of big government are next to useless in Rhode Island, perhaps because they’ve simply been bought off.  It’s more important to the people at the top of these organizations to preserve their network with government insiders than to assert the interests of their members when they conflict with the government’s interests.  Members and potential members should take this reality under advisement.

  • Max

    We’ll be cancelling our subscription to AAA and I’ll fend for myself. I’m sorry to see my 25 years of dues working against me. Other than a couple of vacations that we booked through them, I really haven’t received my money’s worth. This is as bad as AARP’s support for Obamacare. I’m also waiting to see the results of my promise to Steve Archambeault and Greg Costantino to work against their reelection if they should vote for the tolls.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I recently listened to a radio interview of someone from AAA. He admitted that their chief interest was marketing. Their membership was largely made up of responsible, creditworthy, people. So, they sold them insurance and vacations.

  • Mike678

    Don’t forget the Bridges. Perfect for trolls….

  • David Durfee

    I wonder if they are afraid of losing their status as the only place that can handle rhode island DMV transactions so they are “falling in line”. I sent an email to the address on their website and complained about the survey. They answered that they got my message. Guess it didn’t do any good.

  • ShannonEntropy

    This is as bad as AARP’s support for Obamacare…

    Even *worse* was AARP taking Rhodent State pensioner’s side over the State taxpayers who fund those pensions. Many of those Rhodent leeches aren’t even old enough to be members whilst many of the taxpayers already ARE members. So I quit

    But unfortunately I drive an SUV so while I can use my 3-ton hydraulic jack at home to change a tire ,, a flat on the road requires me to call AAA (( YOU try hoisting an SUV with that micro-jack in your trunk ))

    • Max

      Forgot about that one.

      • ShannonEntropy

        And thanks to the great condition of the roads here between Mrs S_E & Yours Truly we suffer at least one flat tire every calendar year. I’ve had one this year already

        Weirdly it is *always* the same tire — the rear passenger one (( Mrs S_E came up with a very plausible Theory about why this is so. Thanks ,, dear !! ))

        I used to patch them myself but now I just buy a new tire and rotate it to a new position … that way every 4 – 6 yrs or so I have replaced all four on both our vehicles (( She drives a Jaguar ))

        The things you gotta do to get by in this State !!

        • Rhett Hardwick

          Fun fact to know and tell. Most cars labeled “All Wheel Drive” (which is not full time four wheel drive) do not permit changing just one tire, whole sets are required. The new tire will be a larger diameter than the existing tires. Wheel speed is measured b sensors and the larger, new, tire will confuse them as it seems to be turning slower.

          • ShannonEntropy

            They have this new-fangled device in modern cars ,, Rhett

            It is called a DIFFERENTIAL


            Usually it works when the vehicle is turning so the outer wheel is turning faster than the inner wheel … but it works with tires too

          • Rhett Hardwick

            As your link points out “Part-time four-wheel-drive systems don’t have a differential between the front and rear wheels” “part time four wheel drive” is “All Wheel Drive”, as opposed to “four wheel drive”. The ‘automatic” engagement of four wheels is controlled by sensors that detect wheel speed. Think ABS in reverse. In most AWD systems, drive to rear wheels is through a fluid coupling. When front wheel slippage (different speeds of rotation) is detected an electrical charge is sent to the fluid reducing its viscosity, sending power to the rear wheels (think automatic transmission).

  • Max

    Add ‘by crushing the state with debt, tolls, and taxes’ and you got a winner Jose.

  • oceanstater

    At the hearing it was said that 60% of the toll revenue would come from out of state large trucks. I don;t understand why toll opponents want only RIers to pay for road repairs, especially as those large trucks do significant damage.
    I think the country as whole suffers from the pervasive something-for-nothing attitude in our country – also seen in the 30% of RIPTA passengers who want to ride free, GE evading CT taxes for a MA handout, motorists who use the Sakonnet bridge who didn’t want to pay for that expensive infrastructure, solar customers who want free use of the grid, “tax treaty” examples in Providence where developers want to have someone else pay city taxes, and of course the Pawsox attempt to get free land in Providence.

    • Max

      This is probably falling on deaf ears but we’re already paying for road repairs. That’s what the gas tax and the doubling of registry fees was intended. When the gantries go up and revenue doesn’t meet projections, what next oceanstater.