Providence – The Rhode Island Board of Elections Monday ordered the state Republican Party to stop airing a television commercial that prominently features GOP candidate for Governor Donald Carcieri. The board found the ad constituted an illegal contribution to the Carcieri campaign. Republican leaders argued it is an issue ad intended only to highlight the party's stances on public policy. The advertising campaign is funded with soft money from the national party.
The commercial praised Carcieri and asked voters to learn more about him, but it did not explicitly ask them to vote for him. That's why the Republican Party said it was not subject to state campaign finance laws. Party leaders said the commercial is an issue ad- part of a quarter million dollar effort to raise awareness about issues such as corruption, government waste, and taxes. Some members of the Elections Board had trouble accepting that explanation at an emergency hearing.
How can you say that's not a Carcieri add? I just, I can't get by that. How could, how could, how does that not qualify as a Carcieri add? That, obviously that appears to be a threshold question, issue here. Is that a Carcieri add or is it not? Commissioner Thomas Ianitti asked Carcieri campaign lawyer Jeffrey Grebowski.
It is not a Carcieri ad, Grabowski responded, The Carcieri campaign did not pay for the ad. The Carcieri campaign did not provide any information to the ad. The Carcieri campaign didn't see the ad until it first went on television.
Rhode Island law allows the state party to contribute no more than $25,000 to any one candidate and limits the amount of individual donations to candidate to $1,000.
Democratic leaders accused Republicans of trying to get around those limits with an ad intended to benefit the Carcieri campaign, but funded with money that is not subject to state regulation.
For a guy who's out there running on reform and that he's an agent of change and he immediately sits down with the big wigs and uh, the republican party and tries to conspire some way to get hundreds of thousands of dollars into Rhode Island in direct violation of the law, I think speaks volumes about his campaign and I think it's a disgrace frankly, said Democratic Party Chairman William Lynch.
The Board of Elections sided with Lynch by ordering the Republican Party to pull the ad. Republican leaders said they would follow the order, but continued to defend the advertisement.
The ad is an issue ad. It talks about the issues that face the voters of Rhode Island and Don Carcieri is the man who is articulating those issues, and I think the Board of Elections here is absolutely wrong. Republican Party Chairman Brad Gorham said.
Republican leaders claim the Board of Elections has no authority over how money raised by the national party is spent. They argue that money is subject to regulation only by the Federal Election Commission. An appeal is planned.