EngageRI spent $524,657 to push pension bill in October alone

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Engage Rhode Island, the deep-pocketed new advocacy group pushing passage of the Raimondo-Chafee pension bill, spent nearly $525,000 to promote the legislation in the month of October alone.

EngageRI shelled out more than half a million dollars to pay for 31 days’ worth of lobbying, advertising, campaign materials and other expenses on behalf of the pension bill, according to a lobbying report the organization filed Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office.

The bulk of the spending – $348,819 – went to EngageRI’s public relations firm Duffy & Shanley, though in many cases that money was then spent by the firm to buy television, print and digital advertisements. (EngageRI has bought ads on WPRI 12 and WPRI.com.)

Other major expenses included $31,350 to pay for a poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group and $30,000 for lobbyists Christopher Boyle and Cara Cromwell. EngageRI also hired Winding Creek Group, a St. Louis-based Democratic voter outreach firm, and Petel & Co., a Washington-based direct-mail firm founded in 2008 by Karen Petel, a Democratic political operative and Central Falls native.

Both Benenson and Patel were hired as political consultants by Treasurer Gina Raimondo during her victorious first-time campaign for office last year.

EngageRI’s union-backed opposition, the Rhode Island Retirement Security Coalition, has not registered with the secretary of state’s office as a separate organization and did not report its spending. Both groups refuse to disclose their financial contributors.

The spending breakdown does not cover money EngageRI spent in September, the month it was formed but before it hired lobbyists and came under the state disclosure rules, spokesman Jon Duffy told WPRI.com last week.

The organization will have more money available next year to spend backing lawmakers in their reelection races if they face challenges for voting in favor of the pension bill, Duffy said.

The House and Senate are scheduled to debate and vote on the pension bill Thursday.

Related: EngageRI raises over $500K; saving cash to defend lawmakers (Nov. 10)

This article has been updated and expanded.

  • Jan

    I do not understand why there is so much secrecy behind their contributors. Do they have something to hide? It makes me very suspicious. What is their motive? More money for corporate America and less for the working men and women of this state? Equally disturbing is how our politicians have aligned themselves with corporations and against the people who have put them in office. It is a very sad state of affairs. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Engage RI money came from the Tea Party or Koch brothers and the democrats played right into their hands.

    • http://www.anchorrising.com Justin Katz


      The money’s more likely to come from Raimondo & friends than from the Tea Party or Koches.

  • ABC
  • http://wrnipoliticsblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/engage-ri-launched-after-raimondo-told-pension-overhaul-supporers-get-engaged/ Engage RI launched after Raimondo told pension overhaul supporers, “Get engaged” « On Politics

    […] Ted Nesi reports that Engage RI spent more than $500,000 just in October to promote the pension bill. His report […]

  • Paul

    Anyone that can come up with that list of contributors would be doing a great service for a lot of people.

    • B

      according to EngageRI.org, Coalition members include: Walco, RI society of CPA’s, the providence foundation, international institute, Amica Insurance, Adecco, Dimeo, Gilbane, East Greenwich Chamber,etc.

      • teddy

        There are other organizations that these companies could donate to. This is NOT one of them!

  • B

    this is government of, by and for the Wealthy robber-barons.
    after granting themselves huge tax cuts, and government contracts, they still want more to go into their own pockets, and not into the worker’s pocket.
    –no surprise there.

  • Paul

    Ted, I saw your Twitter comment concerning financial information. I don’t think you should take it personally. It’s the flagship of the state’s press corp that’s getting stiffed armed, not you.

    • http://www.wpri.com/generic/news/local_news/indepth-news Ted Nesi

      Thanks, Paul. I try never to take any of this personally – we all have a job to do. I just wanted to point out nobody is being particularly transparent on this.

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2011/11/17/analysis-why-rhode-island-passed-pension-reform-in-2011/ Analysis: Why Rhode Island passed pension reform in 2011 | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] The Providence Journal, whose coverage added to the sense of crisis; Engage Rhode Island and its mysterious financial backers; and, unfortunately, Rhode Island’s interminable economic malaise, which has made the once […]

  • This is a

    generally articles a few really interesting stuff like this particular. If you’re new to this site.

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2011/11/21/union-email-blasts-dems-on-pension-law-previews-legal-fight/ Union email blasts Dems on pension law, previews legal fight | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] made clear the NEARI and the rest of organized labor plans to fight pension law supporters and their allies in Engage Rhode Island during the 2012 campaign. There are currently 65 Democrats in Rhode Island’s 75-member House […]

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2011/11/22/is-the-media-in-ri-being-too-credulous-about-pension-reform/ Is the media in RI being too credulous about pension reform? | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] in 2011. And the deep pockets and loud advocacy of Engage Rhode Island made voting against the bill a nerve-wracking prospect for lawmakers by the end. Indeed, would EngageRI have been able to raise more than $500,000 to push […]

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