Cianci took workers' campaign cash despite pledge

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ex-Mayor Buddy Cianci accepted campaign contributions from dozens of city employees in his comeback bid for City Hall despite saying he hadn't and pledging he wouldn't, according to campaign finance reports.

At a Sept. 17 mayoral forum, the 73-year-old independent addressed criticism about corruption and pay-to-play practices during his previous administrations.

"I haven't taken a dime from any city worker, nor do I intend to," Cianci said during the forum at the Laurelmead retirement community.

But campaign finance records filed Tuesday show that among those contributors who named their employers, more than five dozen city employees donated a total of about $18,000 to Cianci's campaign. The reports cover the period from June 25, when Cianci announced his mayoral bid, through Oct. 6.

Some of the employees contributed several times, while others contributed once. Their donations ranged from $50 to $1,000, the maximum amount. Dozens of donations were made before Cianci made the comment Sept. 17, and dozens were made after, according to the finance reports.

One city employee, Kevin McHugh, an assistant city solicitor, was photographed by The Associated Press speaking with Cianci at a fundraiser Sept. 10, one week before Cianci's comments. He gave $125 to Cianci's campaign that day and had previously given $100, according to campaign finance records. McHugh did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Cianci's campaign issued a statement saying he had never pledged not to accept the donations, calling his comment at the retirement community "an offhand remark at a heated forum."

"I never took a pledge to refuse contributions from city employees, nor did I ever allude to such a pledge," he said.

He said his intent was to say he wouldn't take contributions from city employees if he were mayor.

Cianci is trying for a third stint in City Hall. He was forced from office twice after being convicted of felonies, first in 1984 for assault and then in 2002 for presiding over widespread government corruption. He was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and spent 4 ½ years in prison. He maintains his innocence.

His opponents, Democrat Jorge Elorza and Republican Dan Harrop, have also pledged not to take money from city employees, saying that was one of many practices that led to corruption during Cianci's previous administrations. While Elorza received a contribution from a school department employee in September, his campaign returned the donation, according to his campaign finance reports.

Cianci's reports do not show that those contributions were returned.

Elorza called on Cianci to return the contributions.