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Please join us to celebrate the achievements of two outstanding progressives in our state!
Congressman David Cicilline
Representative Larry Valencia
Friday evening, December 6, 2013 6:30-9:00 PM
Waterplace Restaurant, 1 Finance Way
Contact Nancy St Germain at 401-338-2152
Or firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
This is one event YOU do not want to miss!
Buy tickets here:
Today, we submitted a campaign finance complaint against the NRA’s Rhode Island PAC, filed in the name of State Coordinator Sam Bell. Registered in Virginia, this PAC has never reported a single donor. Instead, the PAC reports more than $150,000 in small-dollar donations below the $100 reporting limit. We find that highly implausible.
We present very strong evidence that the money actually comes from the NRA’s national PAC. Not only is it illegal for national PACs to donate to a Rhode Island PAC (or candidate), but it is also illegal for any PAC to donate more than $1000 per annum to any other PAC. The NRA, we believe, violates both laws.
During the last legislative session, we were shocked at the level on influence the NRA has in the nominally Democratic General Assembly. Even though Rhode Island Democrats support an assault weapons ban by a margin of 86%-9%, the NRA lavishes campaign cash on the top leadership of the Democratic caucus in the General Assembly. Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello, and Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio have each taken thousands of dollars from the NRA.
Now the chief Rhode Island lobbyist for the gun industry, former Speaker Bill Murphy, a famously right-wing Democrat, was another favorite of the NRA. He got more than $6,000 during his speakership. Conservative Democrat Mike McCaffrey, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over most gun legislation, has taken a total of $6,660 since 2002. In stark contrast, McCaffrey’s House counterpart, Representative Edie Ajello, a true Democrat, has never taken a penny from the gun lobby. Sadly, she is the exception, not the rule.
Money matters in politics. Top Democrats in the General Assembly are well known for aligning more closely with the national Republican Party than the national Democratic Party. They have successfully implemented many of the GOP’s policy priorities: voter suppression, tax cuts for the rich, massive austerity, and medically absurd restrictions on reproductive rights. It is rare, however, for the leadership of the General Assembly to openly flout President Obama, who made a strong personal push this year for blue states to pass sensible firearms reforms. But in Rhode Island, it was to no avail. Like John Boehner in Congress, Fox and Paiva-Weed denied the assault weapons ban a vote.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the NRA’s illegal campaign contributions played a major role in the gun lobby’s big wins at the statehouse this year. If our complaint succeeds, our hope is the NRA will start playing by the same rules as everyone else. Maybe then we will be able to win some sensible reforms.
We would like to thank CFO Compliance for very generous pro bono assistance in drafting this complaint.
At today’s monthly meeting, we discussed what we can do to defend Martin Luther King’s dream on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. We’ve been seeing a vicious assault on the Voting Rights Act, one of the singular pieces of civil rights legislation. Right-wing state legislatures across the country have been cracking down on the right to vote, passing a series of voter suppression laws–especially after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. We discussed what we can do to fight back, including our efforts to repeal Rhode Island’s own voter ID law. Guests included Jim Vincent from the NAACP, Bob Plain from RI Future, and Bill Bateman, who is organizing Wednesday’s 50th anniversary march.
There’s going to be a strategy meeting for the Coalition for Marijuana Regulation this Saturday. (Don’t worry, it’s right before the rally against gun violence, so you can make both!) It will be tomorrow, Saturday, January 26th from 10AM-12PM at Brown University, Smith-Buonanno Hall (95 Cushing Street, Providence, RI 02906).
We’re holding a big rally against gun violence at noon at the state house this Saturday along with Mothers and Others Against Gun Violence, MoveOn.org, One Million Moms for Gun Control, The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and The Institute for Non-Violence. We’ve lined up a number of moving speakers, including David Cicilline. It’s going to be a great event. We must achieve meaningful action before the horror of Newtown fades from the public memory.
State Coordinator Sam Bell responds to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dan DaPonte’s confusion on tax breaks for the wealthy.
We deliver our petition to the Governor’s office. More than 1800 citizens joined our call to end voter suppression in Rhode Island! Check out this article in the Projo:
Here’s a link to the petition:
When we endorsed David Cicilline, the strong progressive running for reelection to Congress, one of our main concerns with his opponent Anthony Gemma was that Gemma refused to commit to backing Cicilline if he lost the primary. This refusal to stand with the Democrats has led many to cast doubt on Gemma’s Democratic credentials. It may explain why the motion to endorse Gemma could not even get a second at the Rhode Island Democratic Party Convention. It may also explain a recent interview with Buddy Cianci where Gemma broke with the Democrats so hard that even Cianci joined the chorus of voices doubting whether Gemma is a true Democrat, telling Gemma, “you’re a Democrat—or at least you say you are.”
In the interview, an excerpt of which can be viewed on our YouTube channel, Gemma has taken his rejection of his party even further. Gemma’s first dig at the left was praising the infamous Ryan Plan for—of all things—calling for defense cuts. What makes this odd is that the Ryan Plan was known for sparing defense from cuts. Instead, Paul Ryan’s plan attempted to balance the budget by hiking taxes on the middle class and taking a wrecking ball to social programs like Medicare and Social security. In fact, an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that the Ryan Plan actually increases defense spending! But this is nothing new. Factual accuracy has never been a major component of Gemma’s statements in support of Republican ideas. When we interviewed him, for instance, we were struck by the logical gymnastics that enabled Gemma to support the Keystone XL pipeline (which imports unusually dirty foreign oil) because importing foreign oil would somehow reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The moment that really shocked us, though, was when Gemma took his rejection of his fellow Democrats home to Rhode Island: He refused to support Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. This refusal to stand with his supposed allies hardly inspires confidence in Gemma’s ability to stand up against the Republicans who crashed the economy and now block every move President Obama takes to fix the mess they landed us in. The pain that Republican obstructionism in Congress has caused Rhode Islanders is immense. We cannot allow it to continue. We call on Anthony Gemma to reverse his position. Please, Mr. Gemma, pledge to support Sheldon Whitehouse, David Cicilline, and Jim Langevin against their Republican opponents. If you are the nominee, Democrats will be there for you. You owe the same for us.
Both David Cicilline and Anthony Gemma have been claiming to be the true progressive in the Democratic primary for the District One US House seat. As the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America, we recently sat down with both candidates to figure out who holds the best progressive vision for our state and our country. Our answer—by a unanimous vote—is Congressman David Cicilline.
Their policy differences make this abundantly clear. For instance: Cicilline opposes letting public money go to private schools; Gemma supports it. Cicilline opposes ethanol subsidies; Gemma supports them. Cicilline opposes the Keystone pipeline; Gemma supports it. (Gemma supports the pipeline in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil–something that confused us because the Keystone pipeline is all about bringing foreign oil into America.)
In several cases, Gemma took reasonably progressive stances, but only Cicilline was able to fully express the reasoning behind those positions. For instance, when we asked about healthcare, Gemma said he wanted everyone to have healthcare. This we support. But when we asked whether he would back a single payer system or even a mandate system, he said he did not know enough about the issue to answer the question. Congressman Cicilline gave a well-argued and impassioned call for single payer, which is, of course, a key plank in the Democratic platform.
Or consider economic policy. When we discussed the difference between the Republican austerity strategy and the stimulus strategy favored by the left (and less radical Republicans like Reagan), Gemma did favor some great stimulus measures like the infrastructure bank Congressman Cicilline has fought so hard for. But he also expressed concerns about “bond vigilantes,” an argument Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has called a “bang your head on the table mistake.”
We must also register our concern that Anthony Gemma might not be able to survive the rougher world of the general election. There were a number of moments during our conversation when a more hostile interviewer might have been able to make considerable political hay. For instance, he got into some trouble when we asked him for an example from American history of a military intervention on humanitarian grounds that he would have supported. When we tried to help him out by suggesting the holocaust, he made some comments that were probably inadvisable. Although we tried to help him walk these (and several other comments) back, we have to express considerable reservations about how Gemma would hold up in a less friendly environment.
Right-wing special interests are already ramping up their spending. The general election will not be an easy race. Not only do we need the strongest candidate, but Democrats must stick together. But Anthony Gemma has refused to back Congressman Cicilline if he wins the primary and has repeatedly praised the Republican candidate. If Gemma wins the primary, Cicilline has pledged to back him, and so will we. If Gemma is a true Democrat, he should do the same for Cicilline. We call on him to reverse his position and stand behind the Democratic nominee even if he loses the primary.
A final consideration for us is experience. Anthony Gemma has not held public office. David Cicilline, on the other hand, has a long track record of fighting for Rhode Island in the General Assembly, the Providence City Hall, and the United States House of Representatives. We have full confidence that the man who finally cleaned up the infamous corruption in Providence is amply qualified to tackle the problems of Washington.
We encourage Rhode Island voters to watch our discussions with both candidates, available on our YouTube channel. For us, however, the choice is clear. David Cicilline is far and away the best candidate to represent the first district of the great state of Rhode Island in Congress.
The Transparency in Political Spending (TiPS) Act, which we’ve been lobbying for this session, has passed the house! It will require disclosure of all political contributions over $1000 to outside PACs that influence elections in Rhode Island.
Check our coalition, Rhode Islanders for Fair Elections, for more info!
We’re gathering at the Rochambeau Library to finalize our plans for our endorsement event in the District 1 US House primary between David Cicilline and Anthony Gemma. We’ll also do some strategizing on legislative races as we put together a plan for this summer’s primary season. New members are always welcome! For more info: email Sam Bell <email@example.com>
Click the link to find out more!