"But Dave, how does this not qualify as election rigging," you may ask?
Well, it's all part of a little scam called the Legislative Grants. Each year, the Rhode Island budget contains earmarks for these grants, which are distributed to organizations all across the state: from police departments to Little Leagues. Even to churches and religious organizations - which seems a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and decades of legal precedent.
Here's how it works. Let's say that you work for an organization, any organization. It doesn't have to be a non-profit, it could be an organization that is already funded through your taxes like a police or fire department. You approach your state representative or senator, and ask him or her to appropriate some of this do-re-mi for your organization. He or she submits the request to the General Assembly on your behalf, and nine times out of ten, you'll get that sweet moolah for your organization. And I do mean nine times out of ten.This year, RI House members proposed $1,112,250 in legislative grants, and $1,022,250 in grants were approved - just under 92 percent. Senators proposed $1,310,230 in grants, and $1,152,480 were approved - just under 88 percent.
Some of the money does go to worthy causes like food banks, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, but most of it goes to things like little leagues, VFW posts, public schools, police and fire departments, churches, and Rotary Clubs. (Side note: Does anyone know what Rotary Clubs actually do?)
Here's my beef, and it should be yours, too. Donating money to these organizations should be YOUR decision. At least when you make a donation directly to one of these outfits, you can write it off your taxes.
If you are an atheist, why should your tax dollars be donated to churches? If you are not a sports fan, why should your money be donated to youth sports programs? If you are any color but white, why should your tax dollars go to police departments?
You may find my headline hyperbolic, but it isn't. Think about it. If a particular elected official carves out a few thousand dollars for your social club, PTO, or your kids' soccer league, are you more or less likely to vote for that person?
If state elected officials think these organizations are worthy of these funds, they should either a) take it out of their own damn pockets or b) take that money from their campaign accounts, which is perfectly legal in the case of non-profit outfits. Not surprisingly, House Speaker Nick "Pauly Walnuts" Mattiello and Senate President Theresa "The" Paiva-Weed had every one of their proposed grants funded in full.
This is just another example of the perfectly legal corruption that continues to put Rhode Island at the bottom of so many rankings. It's time to start taking this stuff personally, folks.
Below you can download a spreadsheet of all of the FY 2015 Legislative grants. It is indexed alphabetically by last name of the sponsoring representative or senator, and the totals of the proposed, approved, and combined House and Senate grants are included. Which is more than I can say for the static PDF version that is published on the GA website. You're welcome.