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One of the issues in the Republican primary for governor is which candidate is more of a Republican.
During the June 17 Providence Journal - WPRI debate businessman Ken Block attacked Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's past financial support of Democrats.
"Did you know that Mayor Fung was a registered Democrat and he donated to Democrats like Congressman David Cicilline, disgraced [House] speaker Gordon Fox and even Mr. Obamacare, Harry Reid," Block said.
The thought of a Republican giving money to Cicilline (who left Providence deeply in debt when he served as mayor), Fox (who left his post after federal investigators raided his office and home), and Reid (the U.S. Senate Majority Leader who championed the Affordable Care Act), would make most loyal members of the Grand Ol' Party cringe.
So we decided to see whether Block was fairly characterizing the facts.
To put everything in context, it's worth noting Fung's voting history.
Cranston records show that Fung originally registered to vote in 1990, as a Democrat. He voted in the 1992 Democratic primary. He switched to unaffiliated in 1994 and back to Democrat in 1998, but then voted in the 1998 Republican primary. Since then he has voted in seven primaries, always as a Republican.
Block's office sent us campaign finance data on Fung's contributions to the three Democrats, showing he donated to each candidate once. We confirmed the information on state and federal websites.
But Block’s characterizations of Cicilline, Fox and Reid suggest the donations to them were recent. In fact, they weren’t.
For example, the most recent of the three donations Block cited was Fung's $150 contribution to Fox. It was made in February 2008. Fox was House Majority Leader at the time, two years away from being elected speaker. The raid on his office was six years in the future. And even today, Fox has not been charged with any wrongdoing by state or federal authorities.
The donation to Harry Reid, for $250, came in June 2004. Reid was the Senate Minority Whip. Obamacare wasn't even a gleam in Reid's eye when he got the money.
The Cicilline donation for $250 is the oldest, made in March 2002. At the time, Cicilline was a state representative poised to run for mayor of Providence.
When we asked Fung's campaign about the donations, spokesman Patrick Sweeney said the three donations of $650 should be compared to 113 donations Fung has made to Republicans totaling more than $25,000.
Ken Block said Allan Fung "donated to Democrats like Congressman David Cicilline, disgraced [House] speaker Gordon Fox and even Mr. Obamacare, Harry Reid."
His statement is true to the extent that Fung donated once to each of those politicians.
But his characterizations of the recipients were misleading.
He referred to Cicilline as a congressman, but Cicilline was a state representative when Fung gave him money.
He labeled Fox as the "disgraced" House speaker, but Fox was majority leader at the time of the Fung donation, and not under investigation.
And the word "Obamacare" hadn’t even been coined when Fung donated to Reid.
Because the statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, we rate it Mostly True.
(On July 1, 2014, we removed an incorrect reference to when Fox and Cicilline served in the Rhode Island General Assembly. The change does not affect our ruling.)
WPRI.com, "Watch in full: GOP Gubernatorial Debate," June 17, 2014
Emails, Patrick Sweeney, Fung for Governor, June 25, 2014
Email, Jeff Britt, Ken Block for Governor, June 24, 2014
Interview, Terri Bucci, board of canvassers, city of Cranston, June 26, 2014
Emails, Raina Smith, director of communications, Rhode Island Secretary of State, June 25-26, 2014
RICampaignFinance.com, "Contributions" tab, Allan Fung file, accessed June 25, 2014
FEC.gov, Transaction Query by Individual Contributor, Allan Fung file, accessed June 25, 2014
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