PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Republican Party has filed a complaint against the Latino Victory Fund, accusing the PAC of not disclosing their donors in a TV attack ad as required by state law.
The Victory Fund launched the ad — titled “Who’s Worse?” — in support of then-gubernatorial candidate Nellie Gorbea a week before the primary, attacking her rivals Dan McKee and Helena Foulkes.
The ad called Foulkes “basically a Republican,” and suggested McKee “better lawyer up” in light of the FBI investigation into a contract controversy involving his administration and the ILO group.
“McKee was told ‘better lawyer up’ because of the FBI investigation into his ILO contract,” said Sue Cienki, the GOP chair, in a statement announcing the complaint. “Now, I think the Latino Victory Political Fund should take its own advice over its own illegal ad.”
The GOP said the Victory Fund violated state law by not disclosing their five biggest donors in the ad, which is required for independent expenditures. The Victory Fund reported spending $136,000 in support of Gorbea.
“The Latino Victory Fund never aired a corrected advertisement disclosing their top five donors,” Cienki said in the complaint filed with the R.I. Board of Elections.
Cienki said if the elections board does not levy a hefty fine, “other organizations will violate state campaign finance law with impunity because they will have determined that the Board of Elections will do nothing to anyone who breaks campaign finance law in Rhode Island.”
The Victory Fund did not reply to a request for comment.
“Good for the Rhode Island GOP for filing this complaint,” said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, a good-government group. “Our disclosure law is a critical tool for exposing dark money in our elections and it must be enforced.”
Asked for comment last week about the lack of donor disclosure in the ad, a Gorbea spokesperson said: “All groups spending in this race should follow Rhode Island campaign finance law.”
McKee’s campaign has already filed a complaint against the Latino Victory Fund for allegedly failing to report its spending to the Board of Elections within the 24 hours required under state law. The group has said it interprets the law differently.
Gorbea and Foulkes both lost the primary to McKee, who won on Tuesday with 33% of the vote. He will go on to face Republican Ashley Kalus and three other candidates in the general election.
Steph Machado (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.