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Providence DSA demands Paolino Properties and Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg follow campaign finance law on corporate coordination



We appreciate that Mr Paolino and Paolino Properties are powerful entities in this city, but they must follow the same laws as the rest of us.”

Providence Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has obtained a copy of a digital letter sent in an email by Joseph Paolino Jr, the Managing Partner of the Paolino Properties corporation. In this letter, see below, Mr Paolino describes a number of ways in which Paolino Properties will be offering services to the Buttigieg campaign. We are concerned that Mr Paolino and Paolino Properties may be in violation of some of America’s most important campaign finance laws by providing in-kind corporate contributions to the campaign of Peter Buttigieg.

Mr Buttigieg, the Mayor of a small city in Indiana, is a candidate for President. A former management consultant at the controversial McKinsey corporation, Mr Buttigieg has gained popularity with many wealthy corporate titans active in Democratic Party politics.

Mr Paolino is a very rich real estate baron who has been active in Democratic politics, once serving as Mayor of Providence. Mr Paolino’s real estate is not held personally but through a corporation, Paolino Properties, where he serves as Managing Partner.

The Providence DSA is a local chapter of the largest socialist organization in the United States. We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. The DSA has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.

In this letter, which is written with the Paolino Properties logo as letterhead, Mr Paolino lays out a number of ways in which it appears the Paolino Properties corporation may provide in-kind contributions to Mr Buttigieg:

  1. He states that free parking will be provided at the underground parking garage for 100 Westminster, a luxury building owned by the Paolino Properties corporation. Similarly, he states that free parking will be provided at the parking lot across the street. Parking in downtown Providence can be an expensive affair, and parking for multiple people is only more expensive. The value of this free parking is substantial.
  2. He states that the fundraiser will be held at a Nicks on Westminster, a restaurant located in the 100 Westminster building
  3. By making a solicitation for Buttigieg fundraising on corporate letterhead branded by a corporation, using an email address paid for by that corporation and possibly an email list compiled by that corporation, the Paolino Properties corporation is directly coordinating with the Buttigieg campaign, utilizing corporate resources for fundraising
  4. In the letter, he asks donors to RSVP to an employee of the Paolino Properties corporation. While this is likely a violation of campaign finance laws, it raises far more serious questions. It is a severe violation of fundamental workers’ freedoms for a business executive to mandate that an employee participate in campaign activity for a corporate candidate that the worker may not necessarily support. Indeed, by nature of the enormous power differential between a business executive and a worker, a worker cannot freely say no when asked to participate in campaign activity. It is partially for this reason that such activity is illegal. Paolino Properties is not a campaign consultancy. Employees of the corporation had no reasonable expectation that they would be compelled to engage in campaign activity for a political candidate not of their choosing. Even if the corporation is being remunerated at fair market value for these employee services, it still represents a grotesque abuse of workers’ rights. As socialists, we stand in solidarity with the abused workers of Paolino Properties. When we allow a business titan to control the political activities of his workers, we enshrine capital, not the people, as the fundamental source of power in our democracy.

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In order to ensure compliance with federal campaign finance law, we demand that the Buttigieg campaign, Mr Paolino, and the Paolino Properties corporation take the following actions:

  1. The Buttigieg campaign must reimburse the Paolino Properties corporation for the full market value of all free parking provided
  2. The Buttigieg campaign must pay full market value for the use of the Nicks on Westminster space, food, staff time, and all other business services to the Nicks on Westminster restaurant. Paolino Properties must not compel or influence its tenant in any way to violate campaign finance laws by offering business services at less than full market value. If the Paolino Properties corporation has already attempted to pressure its tenant to violate federal campaign finance law in this way, the Paolino Properties corporation must, at a minimum, issue a full and public apology for its conduct
  3. The Buttigieg campaign must reimburse the Paolino Properties corporation for the full market value of the fundraiser solicitation on Paolino Properties letterhead. Such reimbursement shall include the staff time of any Paolino Properties employees involved in the crafting of this solicitation and any and all Paolino Properties corporate resources so utilized
  4. The Buttigieg campaign must reimburse Paolino Properties for the full market value of the campaign services rendered by Paolino Properties employees
  5. Mr Paolino must personally apologize to all employees he enjoined to participate in campaign activity to support the corporate candidate of his choosing. Furthermore, the Paolino Properties Board must render appropriate disciplinary action against Mr Paolino for misuse of corporate resources and approve financial compensation for the affected employees as a means of apology
  6. Mr Paolino must be removed from the host committee for the fundraiser and all of his financial contributions must be donated to charity.
  7. Public documentation must be provided to the media that all these steps have been undertaken.

We appreciate that Mr Paolino and Paolino Properties are powerful entities in this city, but they must follow the same laws as the rest of us. Mr Buttigieg should be ashamed of himself for associating his campaign with such unethical activity. While there are many excellent elements of local Rhode Island culture for him to sample during his visit, we believe that our state’s penchant for political corruption was not the best part of Rhode Island culture for Mr Buttigieg to choose to participate in. Instead, perhaps he should try a quahog.

Providence DSA is supporting Bernie Sanders for President. We urge Rhode Islanders to support a democratic socialist candidate who cares for working people rather than a corporate Democrat who is happy to play fast and loose with the laws in order to take big money from a real estate titan.

Here’s Paolino’s letter:

ProvDSA is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people, such as stopping utility shutoffs and implementing a Percentage Income Payment Plan. Our vision is of a society in which people have a real voice in the choices and relationships that affect the entirety of our lives. We call this vision democratic socialism — a vision of a more free, democratic and humane society.