The Million Dollar Quarter: Is Rhode Island for Sale?


Everybody who writes or comments on Rhode Island politics is expressing shock and striving to process the fact that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo took in $1.3 million in fundraising during the first three months of 2018.  That’s a 40% increase in her cash on hand over a period of time during which polling data and the general temper of the people of the state suggest lackluster support for the governor (to put it mildly).

So what gives?

Spreadsheets available from the state Board of Election Campaign Finance Unit show that a significant majority of the governor’s donations come from out of the state: 60.5%, to be exact.  Out-of-state donors tend to be more generous, too, with an average donation of $725, compared with $524 in state.  In fact 63% of Raimondo’s out-of-state donors gave her campaign the maximum of $1,000 (with one Robert Clark of Saint Louis, MO, apparently giving an illegal $2,500 donation).  This compares with 43% of in-state donations.

By contrast, Raimondo’s nearest Republican opponent, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, raised only 16% of his $191,460 first-quarter revenue out of state, with the average out-of-state donation amounting to $288.  Just 16% of Fung’s out-of-state donors gave the maximum $1,000 (with none giving illegal contributions greater than that).

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The question Rhode Islanders should be asking is:  What do all of Raimondo’s generous out-of-state donors expect to get for their investments?  Neither of the two possibilities that come to mind aren’t encouraging.  Perhaps the donors want special deals from the governor’s office, using Rhode Islanders’ public resources.  Or perhaps they’re using Rhode Island’s governorship — the chief executive office of a state that has been mired in stagnation and controversy for way too long — as a stepping stone for national political ambitions.

Either option suggests a state for sale whose people will either have to tuck their empty pockets back in or brush the footprints off each other’s backs when the governor’s done with us.

  • guest

    Fair question; what do all of Justin’s generous out-of-state donors expect to get for their investments?

    • Justin Katz

      Actually, that’s a pretty dumb question. Apart from the matter of whether the Center actually takes in much money from out of state, we have a clear work product. We don’t control public money. If you take issue with the arguments we make or our research, address that.

      • guest

        That’s not very persuasive, in addition to not responding to the question. The Fung and Raimondo campaigns don’t control public money.

        Don’t you in your role as an elected official make recommendations for the expenditure of public money? Why aren’t you tainted by the same broad brush that you attempt to paint the governor?

        • Justin Katz

          Oh, come on. The campaign is what puts people in office.

          By contrast, I’m not an elected town official as part of my job with the Center. The money the Center raises, in that regard, is the same as the money raised by any day job of any elected official. How many out-of-state customers does any elected lawyer, salesman, manager, carpenter, etc. have? That can sometimes be an interesting question, but it’s not the same as donating to a campaign to put somebody in office who will be able to direct taxpayer dollars.

          • BasicCaruso

            How many lawyers, salesmen, managers, and carpenters claim their pay is tax exempt?

        • BasicCaruso

          Not to mention that RICFP do electioneering hit pieces like this while claiming tax exempt status as Rhody’s littlest “nonpartisan” think tank. Essentially a subsidy paid by RI taxpayers to those wealthy donors’ political activities.

          Why won’t RICFP pay their taxes?

  • Fred Gralinski

    Justin. Ignore “guest” . It is a troll using Alinsky’s rules to try to suck you in.