PROVIDENCE — The chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party filed an ethics complaint on Monday against Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo for striking a fundraising deal with a local Democratic group which was headed at the time by a state employee.
Brandon Bell asked the ethics commission to investigate the “agreement of mutual support” Raimondo’s campaign recently struck with the Providence Democratic City Committee, which was then chaired by Patrick Ward. Bell said the agreement may have violated the ethics code because it constitutes a financial transaction and Ward is Raimondo’s subordinate.
Ward was hired by the Raimondo administration in June for a job in the state Department of Human Services. Bell said the fundraising agreement could also violate a provision that prohibits elected officials from soliciting political contributions from their subordinates.
Both the Raimondo campaign and Providence Democrats have said the agreement, which has not been released, was meant to help them raise money. State law allows individuals to donate up to $1,000 per year to candidates, but they can donate up to $10,000 annually to party committees. The agreement has raised eyebrows in part because Raimondo’s campaign made the deal with a small city committee with few resources, apparently bypassing the state party.
Raimondo told WPRO-AM on Monday there was nothing unusual about the agreement.
“It’s totally standard in an election year for a campaign to have an agreement with a party,” she said. “It’s very standard, it happens in every election cycle and you ought to call my campaign for more details.”
Raimondo spokesman David Ortiz said the agreement was between a campaign and a party, not individuals. He blasted Republicans for running attack ads against Raimondo paid for by a nonprofit group formed by the Republican Governors Association, State Solutions, Inc., which he called “a shadowy organization.”
“Are they going to publicly release those agreements?” Ortiz asked.
Bell wrote in papers submitted with his complaint that there was nothing “normal,” or “regular,” about Raimondo’s fundraising deal.
“Rather than enter into an agreement with the state party committee whose chairman is a state legislator, Gov. Raimondo made the unusual decision to enter into an agreement with a local party committee, whose chairman was a subordinate state employee over whom she has control,” Bell wrote.
Ward resigned as head of the committee on Friday over a meme he posted on Facebook that some Democratic leaders said was offensive to Italians.