Newly formed Rhode Island Political Cooperative takes aim at political establishment

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“Raising the money, finding good campaign staff and enlisting volunteers to run a winning campaign is a challenge – especially when you’re going up against the political establishment and its corporate money,” said Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-chair Jeanine Calkin. “The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is dedicated to solving that problem by bringing together candidates who share the same goals and ideals to work together, while providing them with the support and resources they need in order to run successful campaigns and win.”

A group of community leaders and supporters from across the state announced the formation on Wednesday of a new statewide political initiative, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, dedicated to challenging the political establishment and forming a new governing majority that will make government work for the people of Rhode Island – not for corporations or the connected. The initiative will form a slate of 25 or more like-minded Democratic candidates to run for office in 2020 and provide them with the support they need to win.


For a full list of announced Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates, see:


Jennifer Rourke, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative who challenged a longtime incumbent for state senate in 2018 and is running again in 2020, said, “I can tell you from experience that campaigning for office against the political establishment while trying to run a household and having little in the way of resources is not easy. My hope is that this new initiative makes it possible for people like me who want to serve their communities to have the support they need to run winning campaigns. For years, we’ve had a government that has ignored and silenced the voices of everyday Rhode Islanders and it’s time to fight back.”

Fifteen state and local candidates have joined as Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates, putting the group well on its way to meeting its goal. Ten of the participating candidates announced their campaigns for the first time on Wednesday. The organizers said they will be announcing more candidates soon.

The group aims to win enough seats in the legislature to elect a new House Speaker and new Senate President and form a new governing majority, and will also work to elect governing majorities in city and town councils.

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative directly addresses the challenges candidates face when running against establishment politicians who are backed by corporate money. The program provides comprehensive direct services to each campaign, including candidate training, staff recruitment, strategy development, and deploying a statewide volunteer force. To counter the power of corporate money in politics, the initiative will build a diverse, statewide grassroots membership program in which members commit to donate monthly to candidates, participate in events and build support within their communities.

Former state senator Jeanine Calkin, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative and a candidate for the state senate in 2020, said, “Raising the money, finding good campaign staff and enlisting volunteers to run a winning campaign is a challenge – especially when you’re going up against the political establishment and its corporate money. It can be enough to deter good people who want to serve their communities from running.

“The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is dedicated to solving that problem by bringing together candidates who share the same goals and ideals to work together,” continued Calkin, “while providing them with the support and resources they need in order to run successful campaigns and win.”

Former Secretary of State Matt Brown, a co-chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative said, “The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is working to build a grassroots membership movement to make sure our candidates have the support they need to win. We encourage all Rhode Islanders to join the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, support these extraordinary candidates and elect a government that works for all of us at ripoliticalcoop.com.”

All Rhode Island Political Cooperative candidates share a common policy agenda that promises to challenge the status quo and solve the problems people are facing, including:

  • $15/hour minimum wage & equal pay for equal work
  • A Green New Deal & 100% clean energy by 2030
  • Affordable housing for all
  • Medicare for all, including women’s health
  • Equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation
  • Corporations & the rich paying their fair share of taxes
  • Quality public education for all children & tuition-free public college
  • Money out of politics & ending political corruption
  • Criminal justice reform, including banning for-profit prisons
  • Common sense gun control

The group will hold a Rhode Island Political Cooperative Convention later in the fall to bring together its full slate of 25 or more candidates and its grassroots members.

As is required by state campaign finance law, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative charges campaigns for the direct services it provides. Otherwise, the services would count as donations to the campaigns in excess of campaign contribution limits.

The group’s Co-Chairs are Jennifer Rourke, Jeanine Calkin and Matt Brown.

Additional information:

The legal status of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative is as a non-profit corporation: it has no shareholders or owners and accrues no profit. It is not the type of non-profit organization that is tax exempt. Tax exempt “public charity” or “social welfare” non-profit organizations (designated as 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations) are restricted in their ability to provide campaign services to candidates. Providing those services is essential to the mission of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. It chooses therefore to forego a tax exemption and pay taxes on any net income.

The organization supports candidates and their campaigns in three ways:

  • First, it enables a slate of like-minded candidates who support a common policy agenda and don’t take campaign contributions from corporate PACs, corporate lobbyists or the fossil fuel industry to run together – helping, supporting and learning from each other.
  • Second, it provides comprehensive direct services to each campaign, including candidate training; campaign manager recruitment, training and oversight; campaign plan development; communications support; and developing, training and deploying a statewide volunteer force for canvassing, phone banking and all other volunteer needs.
  • Third, to counter the power of corporate money in politics, it provides a means for participating candidates to build a statewide grassroots membership program in which Rhode Island Political Cooperative members commit to donate monthly to the candidates.

As is required by state campaign finance law, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative charges campaigns for the direct services it provides. Otherwise, the services would count as donations to the campaigns in excess of campaign contribution limits.

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is not a PAC. PACs (Political Action Committees) are formed to make contributions to campaigns and to make “independent expenditures” on advertising, canvassing and other activities to support campaigns. The Rhode Island Political Cooperative does neither of those things. Instead, it provides services to campaigns that pay for those services.

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is not a worker cooperative. The Rhode Island Political Cooperative uses the word cooperative in the colloquial sense: a group of people – the candidates and the grassroots members – coming together behind a shared mission.

[From a press release]


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