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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Who Owns the CCA?

Campaign finance reports give the answer
By Will Collette

On October 22, I published a detailed analysis of the campaign finance reports filed by candidates for town office on October 9. Those reports showed the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) and the Charlestown Democrats running neck-and-neck for the first time in three election cycles in terms of fund-raising. In this article, I include new data from the CCA's final pre-election report, filed on October 30.

The big difference between Charlestown Democrats and the CCA is where the money comes from. In the case of the CCA, their latest Oct. 30 report continues to show the bulk of the CCA's money comes from non-residents. However, you wouldn’t know that unless you cross-checked their report with the Charlestown Tax Assessor’s database. Why? Because the CCA listed 15 major donors as though they were Charlestown residents, when in fact, they are non-residents and not registered to vote in Charlestown.

But when it comes to getting the CCA to push their interests, whether it’s spending $475,000 of Charlestown taxpayer dollars to fund a private deal benefiting the Westerly YMCA, the Charlestown Land Trust and non-resident vacationers in the Sonquipaug, or blocking a Democratic proposal to reduce taxes for middle-class residents who make Charlestown their home, campaign money is worth more than actual voting rights.

If the CCA continues its control of Charlestown government past November 6, I predict they will get to work on that voting rights issue too. After all, the CCA isn’t shy about taking on statewide crusades, such as attacking the state affordable housing law, on behalf of the landed gentry. So why not voting rights, too.

In the CCA’s final campaign finance report before the Election, they only report two major donors. One is Westerly YMCA board chair and financier Mal Makin who gave the CCA $1,000. Makin, a central figure in the Y-Gate Scandal joins another Y-Gate figure, Charlestown Land Trust Treasurer (and Providence resident) Russ Ricci in the CCA’s $1,000 club. Ricci’s donation showed up on the October 9 campaign finance report, listing his Charlestown second home, not his Providence primary address.

Joseph McLaughlin is another $1000 donor. McLaughlin added another $500 donation to his earlier one to reach the maximum allowable state campaign donation. The CCA lists McLaughlin as living in a $2 million estate at 50 Cove Drive even though Charlestown tax records show his actual address is Riverside, Connecticut.

But that’s par for the course when it comes to the CCA’s record on “openness and transparency.”

In their October 9 campaign finance report, they listed 15 major donors as Charlestown residents when they are not. Here is the list of disguised CCA non-resident major donors:

Three maxed out at the state limit of $1000. One is Dr. Russ Ricci, treasurer of the Charlestown Land Trust and a central figure in the Y-Gate Scandal, who apparently remembered where he left his checkbook and wrote the CCA a $1000 check. He is listed as living in Charlestown when he admitted in his sworn testimony in the Y-Gate case that he actually lives in Providence.

The other $1000 donor is John Mueller, listed as living at an $823,000 home on Kennedy Lane. Town tax records show it’s John Muller (no “e”) who owns 22 Kennedy Lane but actually resides in Madison, CT.

Another central figure in the Y-Gate Scandal, Boston lawyer Joanne D’Alcomo, gave what seemed at the time to be an oddly precise $242.45 donation. Her address is listed as her Sonquipaug second home when Charlestown tax records show her actual residence to be in Brighton, MA.

The answer to that oddly precise gift is that she gave it so that the CCA could buy an ad attacking Progressive Charlestown and town Democrats in the Charlestown Press[1]. In that ad, D’Alcomo claims to be a “Charlestown homeowner and taxpayer for 21 years,” except she doesn’t live here, vote here or pay state income tax here. And she was not bashful to push Charlestown to spend $475,000 to buy the YMCA camp when directly abuts her property, making her a major beneficiary of the aborted Y-Gate Scandal.

Thomas Farrell, who is listed as living at Neptune Ave., gave $200. Town tax records show he actually lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Linda Long, who is listed as living at her $2.9 million second home on Ninigret Ave., gave $200. Tax records show she actually lives in Tarrytown, NY.

Rounding out the list are $100 non-resident donors listed by the CCA with Charlestown residences. Actual residence, according to town tax records, is shown in parentheses: Brett Eagleson (Middlefield, CT), Michael Kraynak (Ridgewood, NJ), Satya Pradhuman (Suffern, NY), Walter Schulthers (Mystic, CT), David Dieramo (Naples, FL), Donald Dubendorf (Williamstown, MA), Robert McIntyre (Darien, CT), and Norman Moore(Naples, FL).

The serious money behind the CCA campaign reflects the CCA’s priorities. If you look at the issues the CCA tackled over the past six years, by and large, they are the issues near and dear to their donors –
  • Low taxes for the rich and for non-residents,
  • The Y-Gate Scandal.
  • Their campaign against new toilet facilities at town beaches which was bitterly opposed by our seaside estate owners.
  • The Battle for Ninigret Park which would have reversed efforts to bring active recreation for families to the park.
  • Fighting affordable housing on the CCA’s twisted theory that this will bring parasitic children into the town, something the wealthy vacationers and retirees hate.
  • Direct attacks against the Chariho school system.
  • And coming soon, voting rights based on property ownership.
All those fanciful mailings, ads and hand-outs from the CCA, with their imaginative and fictitious characterizations of town Democrats are bought and paid for by people who do not live here. Just as the CCA itself is bought and paid for. Whether they can use the power of their backers’ wealth to convince actual Charlestown voters remains to be seen on November 6.

[1] The Charlestown Press ad, as published, does not bear the usual “Paid Political Advertisement” legend, nor does it show the CCA as the originator of the ad. According to the CCA’s campaign finance report for October 9, D’Alcomo’s $242.45 donation is listed as having been received by the CCA in the form of a check from D’Alcomo.

That means that the CCA would have then bought the ad. If, on the other hand, D’Alcomo had commissioned and paid for the ad, the CCA should have reported it as an in-kind donation. They didn’t.

They do not list any expenditure on the October 30 campaign finance report showing the CCA paying for the ad.

One, or possibly both, methods of reporting the transaction are wrong. Regardless of whether D’Alcomo gave CCA the check (as the CCA reported) or gave the Westerly Sun the check for the ad, giving it to the CCA as an in-kind donation, the advertisement should have been marked as a Charlestown Citizens Alliance advertising.

Classic CCA chicanery in every respect!