NORTH SMITHFIELD – The chairwoman of the Rhode Island Republican Party has filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections alleging that Paul Jones failed to properly account for expenses in his recent campaign finance reports.
But Jones, a North Smithfield resident who challenged Rep. Brian Newberry for his District 48 seat, says he has records that prove otherwise.
In a letter to BoE Campaign Finance Director Richard Thornton, Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Cienki points to activities in the recent campaign, including Facebook ads, mailers and information published by Mark Berger of public relations firm Berg’s Eye Communications.
“Mr. Berger took out advertisements in a circular called ‘Shop in RI,’ a magazine which provides paid advertising opportunities for participating businesses,” Cienki noted.
According to the letter, Jones also, “sent a four page letter to households in the district via First Class mail, and no such costs are reported on candidate’s subsequent finance reports,” as well as a two-page full color mailer.
“This omission is in violation of campaign finance laws,” Cienki wrote.
Newberry, a Republican who has held the seat representing North Smithfield and Burrillville since 2008, ultimately defeated his Democratic challenger by a vote of 3,634 to 2,045.
“I did better than anybody thought that I was going to,” Jones told NRI NOW this week of the loss, noting he’s already announced plans to run again in 2024. “They want me gone.”
Jones said he is in the process of compiling a response to the complaint and called the allegation “silly.” The two mailers, Jones said, were designed by Checkmate Consulting Group, LLC, and the bill was not received until November 6 – well past the BoE’s November 1 reporting date. Jones shared a copy of the $8,324 invoice dated November 3. The expense, he said, will be properly filed on his next campaign finance report, which is not due until 28 days after the election, as required.
Jones noted that Berger, whose firm does work for his business The Care Concierge, contacted him asking for participation in a Shop in RI story after a previously-scheduled piece for the magazine fell through. He noted his response to the BoE will include a statement from the public relations firm verifying that the published information and other social media activity by Berger were not a paid campaign activity.
“It’s dirty politics from the Republicans,” Jones said. “I am in the right and I have the proof.”
While the state governing board has yet to weigh in, it seems the post-election political conflict will continue for now. In a press release Thursday, Nov. 10, Cienki outlined the allegations amid references to “dark money,” and undisclosed campaign funding – although no incidents regarding contributions are cited in the complaint.
“Jones is a high ranking Democratic Party leader,” Cienki wrote. “This is not simply one mistake, but a pattern of hiding or failing to report in kind contributions and/or expenditures. He obviously didn’t raise much money himself yet his campaign spent thousands. It smacks of dark money being funneled by outside organizations in an attempt to buy an election.”
Editor’s note: The above article originally stated that Newberry had a hiatus from public office between 2011 and 2016 – when he was actually serving as minority leader. We apologize for the error.