Money and movement shape Rhode Island Senate election – Uprise RI
Every story about the Democratic primary to become Rhode Island District 3 state senator has, rightly, been focused on the candidates and their visions for the future, and their political priorities. Although there are significant differences in their policy prescriptions, I was struck, almost from the start, by the success of Hilary Levey Friedman to gain approval from notables across Rhode Island. I was also struck by the mobilization of the social movement around the candidacy of Geena Pham. Both women are relatively new to electoral politics, as are Bret jacob. Seasoned politicians Ray Rickman and Sam Zurier offer fewer surprises to those familiar with Rhode Island politics. Friedman and Pham bring something new to political competition, but very different things.
I know Friedman and Pham. I met public school teacher Pham at a fundraiser and donated to her campaign based on her commitments to more fundamental policy change. I know Professor Friedman much better. I appreciate my fellow sociologist as a colleague and her research on beauty pageants in particular. I also know her husband, now president of Brown’s economics department, John Friedman. He is also my colleague at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. We all have common students. I admire how John and Hilary have done so much to bring public engagement and Brown University closer together.
Public sociology is quite attentive to the different audiences that make up this large audience that our political leaders represent. These candidates obviously rely on different communities to support each other. Those who have followed the electoral contest know that Pham is supported by a number of social movement organizations, including Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, Sunrise Providence, Climate Action Rhode Island, Reclaim RI, Black Lives Matter RI PAC and most famous. Rhode Island Political Cooperative.
One of Rhode Island’s best-known progressives, Aaron Regunberg, supported Jacob, and subsequently indicted the cooperative last week regarding another of his actions. Some commentators have observed that his editorial could spill over and hurt Pham’s candidacy. On their own, The Providence Fire Union, endorsing Friedman, spent $ 2,000 to defeat Pham last week saying a loss for Pham is a loss for the co-op. Some seem to be wary of the movement mobilized by the Cooperative; at least some of her opponents believe that mobilizing fear against her could undermine Pham’s campaign.
In all this fury Progressive civil war, we are distracted from what Friedman brings to this race to decide on East Side Providence representation in the Rhode Island Senate.
In every article commenting on the election, analysts note that Friedman raised more money than anyone else. I tweeted myself based on Sam G. Howard’s research, which Friedman raised the most money, even if he was the least focused on Providence. In contrast, almost all of Zurier’s campaign donors are local; once you took out his loans for himself, however, Zurier and Jacob, also of local origin, raised the least amount of money of all the applicants. Pham hasn’t raised that much, but she has more donors than anyone in the campaign. Friedman, however, has by far the largest number of large donors. I created the following table with data from Sam Howard.
I wrote to Sam asking if he knew who the big donors were for each of the campaigns. He shared the publicly available data with me.
Of course, for all of these actors, we see family members, if there are any wealthy enough that they can afford donations of $ 1000, contributing to the campaigns of their loved ones. Each campaign also has generous donors from Providence itself – usually those in the personal circles of candidates in past lives. If your professional colleagues come from relatively affluent backgrounds, you are more likely to benefit from greater generosity from your friends. I recognize many names from Brown University; I don’t know the business world either. We all know former Congressman Patrick Kennedy backed Ray Rickman, but he and his wife Amy also donated $ 1,000 each to his campaign. These data fascinate and deserve further interpretation, especially for Pham and Friedman.
Pham receives five of these big gifts, but I don’t know these generous souls. Those of Rhode Island are activists and agents of change whose financial situation can allow for that kind of generosity that is not generally seen among the organizers of the movement. But Friedman’s donors could be more generous because their Providence reputation is built on philanthropy and financial success.
Once we get past the sheer number of professional colleagues and family members who may have contributed to his campaign, Friedman’s donors include several women who are leading figures in the investment world, such as Nancy Zimmerman of Newton Center, Massachusetts, which, at least in 2016, ran the world’s largest female-led hedge fund. Another big donor, Abigail Doft, is a member of 37 Angels and an active investor in sustainable businesses in developing countries according to her. LinkedIn Account. They represent an idea of the professional woman that many election commentators find inspiring in Friedman’s example.
Alan Hassenfeld, the former CEO of Hasbro, also contributed $ 1,000 to the Friedman campaign. However, not all of Friedman’s major donors have obvious connections to Providence like Hassenfeld. But many of them have ties to Brown University.
Hassenfeld is also a director of Brown University Society. Doft’s ties to Brown University are evident with his service on the board of directors of Brown RISD Hillel. Nancy Zimmerman is a Trustee of the Company. Business leaders are identified as chancellors; former Chancellors Thomas Tisch and his wife Alice, and Samuel Mencoff and his wife Ann, each contributed $ 1,000 to his campaign. Perry and Martin Granoff also contributed $ 1,000 each; their most generous donations to Brown have enabled the magnificent arts center known by their name. Not all major donors are so intimately linked to Brown University, but they are the most obvious.
While every campaign has big donors, even in vastly different numbers, the most important point is this: The networks each candidate relies on for financial support differ significantly.
Visiting Professor Friedman has mobilized many members of the Brown University faculty community, as well as her donors, to support her campaign. If elected, perhaps she could mobilize the university and its supporters in support of Providence and Rhode Island beyond what they already do.
The Pham public school teacher does not have Friedman’s networks with financial capital. But with her obligations to these transformational movements that support her, Pham may need to mobilize our state resources to change the way we do business in Rhode Island. And educate our students. And fight against climate change.
Rhode Island’s Senate District No. 3 riding should know, beyond endorsements, who is supporting candidate campaigns. Thanks to the transparency of our donation tracking system, we do this. But I haven’t seen any analysis anywhere else.
One can draw one’s own conclusions from how money and movements variously influence campaigns and forms of representation. But unless you know how they flow, you can’t be a very good judge of their influence.
We have discussed movements a lot, but we have not touched the power of money. It is, in itself, a kind of policy, which I do not share.