PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The former CEO of Hasbro donated $50,000 to the obscure group behind a new television commercial that attacks Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and supports independent challenger Dianne “Dee Dee” Witman, according to a disclosure filed Monday.
In a filing with the R.I. Board of Elections, the group – It’s Time Providence – reported a single $50,000 donation from Alan Hassenfeld, the philanthropist and former head of one of the country’s largest toymakers. The group reported spending $47,000 on the production and placement of the commercial.
The ad calls violence in Providence “out of control” while claiming the city’s police department is down 100 officers. It goes on to criticize Elorza over the city’s giving meters, the handling of the school bus strike and economic development.
“Mayor Elorza wants four more years. Wrong answer,” the ad says. “If you want a better Providence. You need a better mayor. Dee Dee Witman. It’s time.”
It’s Time Providence is chaired by Robert LaChance, a veteran in Rhode Island advertising circles whose voice has been used in political commercials for decades. As an independent-expenditure-only committee, the group is restricted from contributing directly to or coordinating with any candidate.
Reached Monday, LaChance said he wasn’t sure how much he could disclose about the group to a reporter.
Hassenfeld served as CEO of the company co-founded by his grandfather – “Hasbro” is short for Hassenfeld Bros. – from 1989 to 2003 and remained chairman until 2005. He has not been shy about criticizing Providence under Elorza, although records show he donated $500 to the mayor in August.
In 2016, Hassenfeld told Providence Business News he fears the city is in deeper trouble “than anyone comprehends” and suggested officials should consider bankruptcy in order to right the ship. He also criticized Elorza for not having deeper conversations with former Mayor Angel Taveras before taking office.
“We in business believe in something we call exit interviews,” Hassenfeld said at the time. “We ask, ‘What did we do right, what did we do wrong, how would you do it differently?’ He’s never sat down with Angel.”
Later in 2016, Hassenfeld and former Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Ken Block penned an op-ed for The Providence Journal suggesting a “Providence bankruptcy represents a new hope for Providence and Rhode Island for long term success.”
“The hole Providence is in is so deep that it can only be dealt with over two or three generations,” Hassenfeld and Block wrote. “It is utterly unfair to burden future generations with the awful decisions of politicians past.”