Donors to anti-Cianci super PAC still unknown

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – We now know exactly who contributed to the outside group that backed Buddy Cianci in the final days of his failed comeback campaign, but we still don’t know who helped fund the group that attacked him.

A WPRI.com review of filings with the Federal Election Commission shows three individuals gave a total of $95,000 to the Committee for Safe Neighborhoods and Lower Taxes, a super PAC that targeted Democrat Jorge Elorza in the week leading up to his victory over Cianci in the mayoral race.

But the FEC website still doesn’t list any of the donors who gave to Priorities PVD, the super PAC founded by prominent Democrat Myrth York to criticize Cianci. And a Priorities PVD disclosure form obtained independently by WPRI.com offers only limited information about who footed its bills.

Elorza defeated Cianci 52% to 45% to become the city’s 38th mayor in a race that garnered national attention thanks to the unlikely comeback of Cianci, a 73-year-old former mayor who twice resigned from the office following felony convictions. Cianci earned more votes than Elorza in most city neighborhoods, but was soundly beaten on the vote-rich East Side, where York lives.

The Committee for Safe Neighborhoods and Lower Taxes said it received $50,000 from Morris Flancbaum, a New Jersey millionaire; $30,000 from David Mugar, a wealthy Boston-based businessman; and $15,000 from Francis Levinger of Cranston. The group ran television ads criticizing Elorza during the final week of the campaign.

In its filing, Priorities PVD identified only one individual donation: $25,000 from Stacy Schusterman, a charter school advocate and CEO of Samson Energy Company LLC, a Texas oil and gas firm. The super PAC received another $45,970 from Forward RI, a “social welfare organization” that lists York’s home as its address. The group also reported about $2,000 in aggregate contributions – donations small enough that the supported is not required to be identified.

York, an independently wealthy former state senator and three-time gubernatorial candidate, has not responded to inquiries from WPRI.com since Jan. 2.

Priorities PVD ran 30-second ad during the final two weeks of the race that pulled quotes from Cianci’s memoir and warned “Providence just can’t afford Buddy Cianci.”

Super PACs are the common term for independent expenditure-only committees, which are restricted from contributing directly to or coordinating with any candidate. Because there is no legal mechanism to prevent super PACs from running ads, a “People’s Pledge” — such as the one agreed to in the Democratic gubernatorial primary — can only discourage outside spending, not forbid it entirely.

Cianci has accused York and her super PAC of illegal direct coordination with Elorza and his campaign; that matter is still tied up in court.Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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