Hassenfeld-Backed Group Trying To Counter Gun Groups' Influence In Four Legislative Races

Sep 1, 2016

RI For Gun Safety, a new 527 group funded by former Hasbro Chairman and CEO Alan Hassenfeld is spending tens of thousands on four legislative races ahead of Rhode Island's September 13th primary.

Hassenfeld has contributed $87,500 to the group.

Using that money, the group plans to send four direct mail pieces criticizing House Majority Leader John DeSimone's stance on gun-safety issues. DeSimone faces a primary challenge from Marcia Ranglin-Vassell.

RI For Gun Safety also intends to send multiple mail pieces criticizing state Rep. Jan Malik (D-Warren), and supporting two other candidates, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-South Kingstown) and former Rep. Linda Finn, who is running for the seat being vacated by Dan Reilly, a Portsmouth Republican.

Malik faces a primary challenge from Jason Knight. Tanzi has two primary opponents: Rachel Clough and Ewa Dzwierzynski. Finn faces rival Democrat James Cawley.

(Update: September 6. Malik is being targeted, although he voted at the end of the legisaltive session against a concealed carry measure, and for a bill to take guns away from those convicted of domestic assault.)

Jerry Belair, a spokesman for RI For Gun Safety, said the group wants to counter the influence of organizations like the National Rifle Association. "If you don't step up, you're going to lose every time," Belair said, referring to the amount of political spending by pro-gun groups.

Belair, the president of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, said he expects "at least half and possibly more" of the $87,500 donated by Hassenfeld to be spent on the four primary campaigns targeted by RI For Gun Safety.

A state filing shows RI For Gun Safety spent $41,611 with the Pivot Group in Washington, D.C., on August 30.

Belair said RI For Gun Safety was organized after efforts to impose new gun restrictions came up short at the General Assembly. He said the group supports keeping guns out of schools and out of the possession of people convicted of domestic assault.

The group attracted funding from Hassenfeld after requesting his support. "Alan's concerned about gun violence Rhode Island and especially in Providence, where he has his office," Belair said.

This post has been updated.