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Politics & Elections

The Rhode Island Politicians who take police money

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Of the politicians on our list, the biggest all-time recipients of cop and prison guard money are Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin ($10,275), House Deputy Speaker Charlene Lima ($10,800), House Majority Leader K Joseph Shekarchi ($12,925), Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey ($15,550), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor Frank Ciccone ($21,950), Senate President Domenick Ruggerio ($27,475), and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello ($29,800).


UPDATE:

UpriseRI was just informed that State Senator Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett) “forwarded the collective $275” in campaign contributions she received from police unions to the Rhode Island Center for Justice last week.

UPDATE:

Providence City Council President Sabina Matos has become the third politician to donate the campaign contributions she has received from the police. In a statement, Matos writes:

“Today, I am proud to announce that I will be donating the $1,300.00 I have received in campaign contributions from the Providence Police Union to the following local youth empowerment organizations:

  • Providence Student Union
  • Young Voices
  • Youth in Action

Can we please ask a favor?

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“The dialog happening in the city and across the country is critical. We are indebted to the youth for this time of reflection. Today, I am converting that reflection into action. I will continue to work in partnership with public safety leaders, both in our Police Department and in our community, to develop policies that put the interests of the Community first.”

UPDATE:

Aaron Regunberg donated the $500 he has received from police and prison guard unions to AMOR’s legal fund, which is raising money to free people detained by ICE in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Here’s Regunberg’s statement:

“I’m grateful to Providence DSA and UpriseRI for compiling this research, and pointing out that over my four years in elected office I received a $100 contribution from a police union and a $400 contribution from a corrections officer union. While I am a passionate supporter of the labor movement, I consistently fought for policies opposed by these two interests — from leading the legislative push to try to end solitary confinement at the ACI to organizing my then-constituents in support of the Community Safety Act — and these contributions don’t match my values.
“As someone who has vocally argued that politicians’ campaign contributions need to reflect their values, it’s clear to me that taking these contributions was not just an oversight, but a real mistake. That’s why this morning I made a contribution of $500 to AMOR’s legal fund, which is raising money to free people detained by ICE in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I’m committed to continuing to do everything I can to support the Movement for Black Lives and the youth standing up for a disinvestment from police violence and a reinvestment in our communities, and I hope other current and former elected officials who share these values will use the Providence DSA report to re-examine their own campaign finance histories and join me in donating similar contributions they have received over the years to worthy causes like AMOR.”

Tens of thousands of people across the world have taken to the streets over the past two weeks with a clear message: the time for change is now. To Americans especially, it’s become undeniable that police perpetrate racial profiling, murder, and brutal repression of peaceful protests. Some politicians have vowed to cut police budgets or even dismantle police departments. 

Unfortunately, leaders in Rhode Island have yet to promise any real change. Members of our organization, the Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, decided to research public campaign finance records and determine which Rhode Island politicians have taken money from police and correctional officers unions. You can view the data we’ve collected here.

Of the politicians on our list, the biggest all-time recipients of cop and prison guard money are Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin ($10,275), House Deputy Speaker Charlene Lima ($10,800), House Majority Leader K Joseph Shekarchi ($12,925), Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey ($15,550), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor Frank Ciccone ($21,950), Senate President Domenick Ruggerio ($27,475), and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello ($29,800).

Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9), who recently proposed several legislative reforms in response to the protests, has received $5,325 from police and correctional officers unions. Even politicians with progressive reputations have accepted money, knowingly or unknowingly. Aaron Regunberg, a former state representative who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and has frequently protested the Wyatt Detention Center, received $400 from correctional officers and another $100 from police.

While we strongly support public-sector unions, police are not typical workers. Since their creation in the nineteenth century, modern police forces have been used to quell slave rebellions, break strikes, and in general guard the property of the rich. This role continues today, clearly illustrated by the deployment of police and National Guard troops to protect the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Providence during last Friday’s peaceful protest.

When police abuse workers – as they often do – they damage the rest of the labor movement. And police unions have consistently resisted all attempts at reform. Last week, the Providence Firefighters Union spoke up for a black firefighter who was racially profiled by two police officers, who drew their guns on him. The police union flatly rejected the firefighters’ concern. Politicians who try to hold police accountable for such incidents are often undermined by cops who refuse to comply with new regulations, organize work slowdowns, or blanket a politician’s neighborhood with parking tickets.

We as the public must pressure our elected leaders to clamp down on the lawlessness of police. It should go without saying that politicians probably won’t do this as long as they’re comfortable taking money from cops. Several legislators in New York have already renounced cop money and donated past contributions to bail funds. We should demand that Rhode Island politicians follow suit: give away all the money they’ve received from police associations, refuse to take any such money in the future, and redirect the funding of bloated police departments to social goods like housing, education, and healthcare.

The spreadsheet we created will help you find whether your town councilor, mayor, senator, or representative has taken police money. If and when these politicians reallocate those donations, we will update the sheet.

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.