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Thursday, March 10, 2016

RI Taxpayers – the old RI Statewide Coalition – goes out of business

By Steve Ahlquist in Rhode Island’s Future with added notes from Will Collette

In an email to members, RI Taxpayers, one of the key conservative organizations in the state, announced that they are ceasing operations due to the death of their founder Harry Staley and budget shortfalls.

NOTE: RI Taxpayers started out as the RI Shoreline Coalition and was based in Shelter Harbor. It was founded to defend the privileges of wealthy non-resident property owners. It later added open hostility to the Narragansett Indian Tribe. 

For years, they were headquartered here in Charlestown.

It changed its name to the RI Statewide Coalition and, while retaining a special interest in non-residents’ “rights” and animus toward the Tribe, it began pushing for election of right-wing candidates, attacked state expenditures, hated unions in general and public employees in particular and fought against any and all taxes.  – Will Collette

Justin Katz, writing on the conservative Ocean State Current, lamented the passing of RI Taxpayers but said, “While it’s discouraging to watch one of the key players on our side fall off the board, time may prove that resources and talent can be salvaged and won’t be lost.”

The memo, copied below, was signed by President Larry Girouard and Chairman Larry Fitzmorris.

It is with deep regret that we announce that R.I. Taxpayers must suspend its operations effective March 10.
Despite efforts to raise the necessary funds to keep our advocacy on behalf of the taxpayers of Rhode Island fiscally liquid, they have fallen short.
Harry Staley (founder, past president and Board Chairman), founded RI Taxpayers, (formerly the RI Statewide Coalition … RISC) twelve years ago. Over that period, the organization was a strong voice in driving many positive changes resulting from its efforts to improve the political culture of Rhode Island, and its competitiveness.
With Harry’s untimely passing in June of 2014, we were unable to maintain the fundraising levels that he was so successful in driving.
We would like to thank all our supporters for your devotion to RI Taxpayers over these past years.
Harry Staley had a noble vision for a better Rhode Island with citizens having a key voice in the realization of that vision. While yesterday’s edition was the last Taxpayer Times, we hope that you will all stay involved with helping to drive Rhode Island to a higher level by reaching out to other good government groups in Rhode Island. 

Rhode Island Taxpayers grew out of an attempt to revamp the RI Statewide Coalition (RISC) by bringing together what was left of Harry Staley’s original formation, plus the state’s Tea Party and failed candidate for Governor Ken Block. They moved the organization out of Charlestown and tried to plot out a more appealing mission for the troubled organization.

That quickly fell to pieces.

I expected it to happen when their filings with the Internal Revenue Service showed their finances were a mess, with huge over-spending that they counted on shaky out-of-state funding to cover.

They were “pre-deceased” by one of their affiliates, OSPRI (“Ocean State Policy Research Institute”) which got caught once too often peddling false information as “research.” That group has been succeeded by the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. The new group peddles the same bovine excrement as OSPRI, but with a different wrapper.

RI Taxpayers/RISC leaves behind a litter of bastard children – local right-wing groups such as the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) which has ruled Charlestown since 2008.

The CCA Party, probably more than any other surviving spawn of RISC, has kept to the original orthodoxy of Harry Staley to fight for special privileges for rich non-residents – who also provide the CCA with most of its funding – and hostility toward the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

- Will Collette

Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member. and Twitter: @SteveAhlquist