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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

CCA creates a new shadow organization

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance's latest trick to possibly hide their money sources

By Will Collette

The CCA's secret headquarters
After following the shenanigans of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) since they first registered as a political action committee (PAC) in 2008, I thought nothing they could do would surprise me.

I was wrong.

As we know, the CCA likes to operate in secret. They hold secret meetings where orders are issued to their Town Council minions. They haven't updated their leadership list in at least three years. At least one Steering Committee member is dead and another no longer lives in Charlestown.

They run land scams. They tried to cover up their mismanagement of the town's finances. They've directed Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz to make it as hard as possible to get what should be public information.

In past years, I've dug into their Campaign Finance Reports and exposed how much of the CCA's campaign money comes from absentee waterfront land owners. They tried to disguise those donations by listing them under the donor's vacation address, rather than where they actually live, as the law requires.

It looks like they have a new scheme to completely evade Rhode Island election law by setting up a clone group called "Charlestown Conservation Voters" or CCV  for short.

You won't find CCV listed in the Secretary of State's database, the state lobbyist registration or the Board of Elections. They are not listed with the IRS as a 501(c)3 or (c)4 organization.

Even though their stated purpose is to elect local candidates AND they list the CCA's 2022 slate of candidates, they have done so as a totally unaccountable "unincorporated association," contrary to Rhode Island law.

Here's the relevant part of the Rhode Island General Laws: 

Rhode Island Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-25-10.1
(j) Except as provided in subsection (h) of this section, no entity other than an individual, a political action committee which is duly registered and qualified pursuant to the terms of this chapter, political party committee authorized by this title, or an authorized committee of an elected official or candidate established pursuant to this chapter shall make any contribution to or any expenditure on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate, political action committee, or political party.

So despite 14 years of experience as a PAC (or maybe because of), the CCA has set up its clone, CCV, to act on behalf of its slate of candidates. This is exactly the kind of conduct the CCA committed in 2007 when it started its effort to affect the 2008 election. That conduct led to the state Board of Elections ruling that the CCA needed to register as a PAC and make all of the required campaign finance disclosures.

The same person, the CCA's de facto leader, Planning Commissar Ruth Platner started both efforts - the CCA almost 15 years ago and the new CCV.

Rather than leave it to the chance that the BOE might eventually catch on, I filed the following complaint with the Board of Elections on September 16. 

Complaint to the RI Board of Elections 

Re: Charlestown Citizens Alliance, its alter ego, Charlestown Conservation Voters, and its common founder Charlestown Planning Commissioner Ruth Platner. 

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) came into existence as an unincorporated association over a decade ago. Its stated purpose then was to oppose, indeed depose, Charlestown’s then Town Council President James Mageau in the 2008 election. 

Because of their stated purpose, the Board of Elections determined they should be registered as a Political Action Committee and the CCA registered on March 7, 2008. Later, they registered the slate of candidates they supported and those they opposed. 

They continue in existence to this day as a PAC, routinely running candidates who have, for the most part, succeeded in getting elected. Indeed, in at least one election cycle, the CCA controlled every elected position in Charlestown. 

For some years, the CCA has been the subject of controversy over the source of most of their funding which comes from absentee property owners, many of them owners of expensive waterfront houses. Over the years, they made various attempts to disguise those donors actual residences. 

Sometime after the beginning of 2022, a new group emerged called “Charlestown Conservation Voters” (CCV). You can find them here on Facebook at which was set up on June 20, 2022. 

They do not list a physical address, PO Box number or phone number. They do list an e-mail address: They are not incorporated or registered with any state authority as far as I am able to determine. They are not listed by the IRS as a 401(c)(3) or (4) organization. 

However, Facebook names Ruth Platner as the person responsible. Ms. Platner resides at 59 Maize Dr. in Charlestown or can be reached through the Planner’s office at the Charlestown Town Hall. 

Platner was also one of the founders of the CCA and has played a continuous leadership role. That’s in addition to her long tenure as chair of Charlestown’s elected Planning Commission. 

The new Charlestown Conservation Voters (CCV) states its purpose this way: 

The content of the CCV Facebook page consists primarily of Charlestown Citizens Alliance candidate biographies taken directly from the CCA’s own website at 

I see three main issues here. 

First, is the Charlestown Conservation Voters a PAC in its form and function and should it be required by the BOE to register as such? I believe the CCV’s own words show that they should be required to register as a PAC and be accountable for reporting as such. In the “About” statement above, CCV essentially defines itself as a PAC by calling its purpose is “Promoting and supporting candidates for local office…”. 

Second, is the CCV actually an alter ego of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance? Again, the overlap of leadership, purpose and candidates’ list show that the CCA is the parent of the CCV. 

Third, is it reasonable to draw the conclusion that the CCA created the CCV to avoid the reporting requirements and thus the public accountability that the CCA has been subject to for the past 14 years? Even though it is hard to nail down a motive, the CCA cannot claim it doesn’t understand how PACs work or the obvious advantages of funneling campaign contributions through an unincorporated association with no reporting requirements. 

But regardless of their motives or intents, the CCA/CCV must be accountable under the law to public reporting requirements. 

I cannot show you a document or physical proof of campaign contributions flowing to the CCV or CCV expenditures on behalf of the candidates they feature on their website. The CCV is not required to disclose that information, and that is the point of this complaint. 

Neither can I show you transfers of cash between the CCV and the CCA. However, I will be looking carefully at the CCA’s next CF-2 to see if such transfers do occur. I will also be closely examining that next CF-2 to see if the income the CCA reports lines up with the pattern of the last 12 years where the bulk of contributions, particularly those from out of state, match up with this year’s record. 

If the BOE finds that the CCV is indeed a PAC and requires them to register as such, I also ask the BOE to require the CCV to disclose all funding it has received since its inception. 

Thank you for considering this complaint. If you have questions, need more information or if I can assist in any way, please let me know.

[signed Will Collette]