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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Filippi comes out of the closet

Surprises no one
By Will Collette

What passes for big local political news after the November 8 train wreck of a national election was the revelation by state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi (who represents District 36 where he may or may not live) that he is a Republican.

For the past two years, Flip has been masquerading as an “independent” and sometimes as a “libertarian” even though he affiliated with the miniscule House Republican caucus from the very beginning. 

His legislative agenda was in lockstep with the House GOP. Consequently, his actual achievements were as sparse as theirs as well.

The best Flip could do was to take credit for other people's work. Examples: he claimed credit for Democratic Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy’s bill to curb granite dust at the Copar Quarry and Democratic Rep. Bob Craven’s bill to cut state income tax on Social Security.

Filippi did, however, regularly come out with whacky, non-starter ideas, including a string of proposed amendments to the State Constitution, that got him lots of attention from a gullible news media. 

Example: his plan to have Rhode Island “secede” from the Eastern Time Zone and switch to Canadian Atlantic Time so we could do away with Daylight Savings Time.

Filippi adopted the charade of being an “independent” to curry favor with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party). The CCA Party publicly disdains partisan politics and loudly claims that it too is proudly “independent.” But woe onto any CCA Party member who strays from the orthodox CCA positions hatched in secret at their private monthly Steering Committee meetings.

That “independent” mask got Filippi elected since Charlestown is, by far, the largest voting bloc in the 36th District. Filippi’s new switch to becoming a Republican also had nothing to do with principles and everything to do with self-advancement.

By officially becoming a Republican when he did, Filippi was then able to give his friend and mentor Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick) the crucial vote she needed to score an upset win in the contest for House Minority Leader. That position had been promised to Rep. Michael Chippendale (R-Foster) by outgoing Minority Leader Rep. Brian Newberry.

Flip was rewarded for his party switch by being named the House Republican Whip. This was the prize and it came with what he covets most – media attention. That included a top-of-the-fold banner headline in the Friday Westerly Sun for a non-news story.

While Filippi blathered on to the Sun about the policies and principles of the Republican Party that convinced him to flip, Flip in fact sold his vote.  He traded his cherished “independence” for a smidgeon of added power within the 11-member GOP Caucus. However and perhaps more important to him, his announcement got him media attention.

But in truth, based on public records, Filippi was a Republican all along.

Indeed, campaign finance records that showed Filippi to be major donor to the Republican Party throughout the years, including those when he was a so-called “independent.” 

In addition, all those campaign finance records offered the first documentation that Filippi has listed Block Island simply as an “address of convenience” while he actually lives elsewhere.

There were a total of 14 state campaign finance records and one federal, all but two where Flip listed his Mom’s cattle farm in Lincoln as his home address. All were made after Filippi registered to vote on Block Island, while numerous legal records showed him living in Lincoln. To see ALL these records, CLICK HERE.

All of these campaign contributions were made to Republicans. The actual pace of Flip’s giving to the GOP accelerated after he supposedly left the Party in 2012.

While Flip’s party flip probably surprised no one, given his history, his timing is interesting coming on the heels of the upset election of America’s first orange President.

Is Filippi reading Trump’s election as a sign that it’s OK for him to stop being a closet Republican? 

Is that how Flip read the 2016 election numbers?

Well, it appears that Flip’s arithmetic is wrong. 

As the Providence Journal pointed out, virtually every coastal community in Rhode Island voted for Hillary Clinton, while Trump won only the rural redneck hinterland.

Filippi’s sometimes hometown of Lincoln went for Trump, but all the towns in his actual District – Charlestown, Westerly, Block Island and South Kingstown voted for Hillary Clinton.

Block Island, the place Flip currently claims as home, went for Hillary by 44.4% margin! Even Charlestown, Flip’s political base, gave Hillary a 6.8% margin.

Yes, the Redneck Revolt put Exeter, Richmond and Hopkinton in the red column and denied two intelligent former state legislators, Cathie Cool Rumsey and Larry Valencia, the chance to return to the Rhode Island Senate and House, respectively.

Yes, Exeter, Richmond and Hopkinton re-elected village idiots Elaine Morgan and Justin Price (again Senate and House, respectively), but Charlestown voted solidly for Cathie Cool Rumsey.

But Exeter, Richmond and Hopkinton are not in the 36th District.

I believe that if Filippi had actually drawn a credible Democratic opponent instead of running unopposed, the solid Democratic majority in District 36 who voted for Hillary would have sent Flip packing to Mom's cattle farm in Lincoln or the family’s mini-chain of hotels.

He might even revive his law practice. There are now lots more right-wing hate groups for him to represent in addition to his clients, the Oathkeepers. The Oathkeepers have been identified by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-government hate group. 

CLICK HERE for records linking Filippi to the Oathkeepers.

In the four towns that comprise House District 36, 16,771 voters chose Hillary, compared to 11,773 for Trump. 

Running unopposed, Filippi only received a total of 6,526 votes (112 people wrote in someone else's name).

If Filippi thinks his change of stripes will somehow further his political career, he’s going to have to look outside this District. But I think most political observers would agree that Flip already has his eyes set on some other political prize well beyond Rhode Island House District 36.