PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The fundraising deal between Gov. Gina Raimondo’s re-election campaign and the Providence Democratic City Committee gave the committee’s then-chairman “exclusive and plenary authority to spend, transfer and otherwise disburse funds,” according to a copy of the agreement released Sunday.
Raimondo’s campaign maintains the terms of the agreement are similar to ones stuck between campaigns and political parties every election season, but the governor has come under fire because Patrick Ward – the chairman of the committee at the time the agreement was struck – is a state employee.
Ward has since resigned as the chairman after apologizing for posting a derogatory meme on Facebook about two members of the Providence City Council.
- Read: A copy of the agreement
- Also: GOP files ethics complaint
- Follow: Providence politics on Facebook
The Rhode Island Republican Party has filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission against Raimondo accusing her of entering into a financial transaction with a subordinate. Ward was hired to work for the R.I. Department of Human Services last June. Raimondo’s campaign has repeatedly said the agreement is with the committee, not Ward.
But the deal, which was approved by the committee’s executive board, did give Ward more spending power than he previously had as chairman. The committee’s bylaws require all expenditures in excess of $1,000 to be approved by the majority of its officers.
“There is nothing in this Sunday news dump to justify why it was kept secret for 2 weeks for strategic reasons,” Brandon Bell, the chairman of the state Republican Party wrote in an email. “It shows it is clearly a violation of Rhode Island Ethics laws and regulations and possibly also a violation of campaign finance laws.”
The agreement, signed by Raimondo campaign manager Jonathan Blair and Ward, called for Ward to open a federal campaign account (for supporting Congressional candidates), a non-federal account and a party building account, all called “Victory 2018.” The maximum combined contribution an individual would be eligible to make to the three accounts is $21,000 in a calendar year.
The agreement also allowed Ward to designate one other person to have spending authority with the three accounts, but stated that “no other person’s approval will be required” when it comes to disbursements. It’s unclear if a designee was ever named.
The funds were allowed to be used “to hire staff and consultants to implement programs, in their sole discretion” as they deem fit,” the agreement states. The committee also agreed “collaborate with [Raimondo’s] campaign to develop a budget for the coordinated campaign.”
A coordinated campaign is a standard game plan Democrats and Republicans create to support multiple candidates during an election season. Historically, coordinated campaigns are run through state parties, not local ones.
The Providence Democrats have not elected a new chairperson, although the committee is widely expected to vote state Sen. Maryellen Goodwin as Ward’s successor. Raimondo’s campaign has said it would like the agreement to remain in place.
Eyewitness News first reported the existence of the agreement on Feb. 5, but Raimondo’s campaign and the Providence Democrats had refused to release a copy of it until Sunday. The Providence Journal published an editorial last week calling for the governor to release the agreement.