In advance of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s visit to Providence this Sunday, the Providence Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) raised questions about possible violations of federal campaign finance law by the Buttigieg campaign and Paolino Properties. In an open letter, published on UpriseRI on November 8, the Providence DSA questioned whether Paolino Properties, a real estate company managed by former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino Jr., was providing illegal in-kind donations to the Buttigieg campaign.
The Buttigieg campaign is hosting a private fundraiser at Nicks on Westminster on Sunday, a property owned and managed by Paolino Properties. In an invitation printed on Paolino Properties letterhead, which was provided to the Providence DSA by an employee of Paolino Properties, Paolino invited “friends, colleagues, and business associates” to buy $1,000 or $2,800 tickets to the fundraiser. Paolino asked that checks be sent to him at the Paolino Properties offices at 100 Westminster.
The Providence DSA demanded in their letter that the Buttigieg campaign pay Paolino Properties the full market value for services provided to the Buttigieg campaign: free parking for fundraiser attendees, the Nicks on Westminster venue, and sending invitations and managing RSVPs.
“There are no violations of campaign finance laws,” Paolino told Uprise RI when asked to comment on the allegations. “Any expenses that are incurred will be reimbursed by the campaign.”
Corey Krajewski, a member of the Providence DSA Executive Committee told Uprise RI that the Providence DSA became concerned about the Buttigieg fundraiser because they were aware of the restrictions imposed on their own organization regarding in-kind donations to presidential candidates. Providing free parking and event space would constitute an in-kind, or non-monetary, donation to the Buttigieg campaign.
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Paolino has already donated the maximum individual contribution amount of $2,800 to the Buttigieg campaign, so any additional contributions would be illegal. Paolino told Uprise RI that Paolino Properties was acting as a vendor, not a donor, for Sunday’s fundraiser.
The Buttigieg campaign declined to comment on the Providence DSA letter and questions about whether the campaign would be paying the full market value for services provided by Paolino Properties.