Undermining the Message?

Steve Peoples has a story in today's ProJo about a questionable move by the Moderate Party to swell its bank account. Party Chairman Ken Block donated $10,000 to the party's state committee in September, meeting the maximum allowed under state law. A few days later, he donated an additional $10,000 to the Barrington Moderate Town Committee, which then redirected the money to the state committee, circumventing the limit.

Block claims the practice is legal under state law. And he may be right. But for a fledgling third party that has made ethics reform a central plank in its platform, this does not look good. The party lacks the institutional strength and bankroll of the Democratic Party it is facing down. Its most powerful claim, in a state known for its shady politics, is a claim to the moral high ground. If the party wants to be effective, it must be careful not to concede that ground.

Otherwise, the Mods walk into this sort of exchange, at the end of the ProJo piece, between Block and state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch:

Asked why he would risk making donations that might be questioned, [Block] said, “It’s 100 percent ethical. If it were not legal, it wouldn’t be ethical.”

That didn’t satisfy Lynch.

“These are the guys, the Moderate Party, who want to sit back and throw stones and criticize everybody else,” he said. “They’re going to be the new moral authority in Rhode Island politics. And right out of the bat, they’re coming up with a strategy at least to avoid law in Rhode Island. You can’t make this stuff up.” 


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