Funding flap ends Senate candidacy
A Rhode Island race loses a Democrat who got Hawaii donations
PROVIDENCE, R.I. » Secretary of State Matt Brown, dogged by questions about his fundraising practices in the campaign for U.S. Senate, dropped out of the race yesterday, citing money problems.
"I simply will not have the resources in the final stretch to run successfully," Brown said at a news conference where he endorsed his opponent for the Democratic nomination, former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse.
They have been vying for the seat held by Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who faces Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey in the primary.
Brown had a strong showing in an independent poll by Brown University early this year, but in recent months he struggled with dwindling funds and persistent questions about a series of donations made to his campaign by Democratic parties in three other states.
In March he acknowledged that he asked several of his most generous donors to contribute money to state Democratic parties in Hawaii, Maine and Massachusetts after those parties gave him a total of $25,000. The donors had already contributed the maximum amount allowed by law to Brown's campaign.
Watchdogs and political opponents accused him of trying to circumvent campaign finance laws that limit the amount of money individuals can give to campaigns, and the allegations seemed to undercut his platforms of clean government and campaign finance reform.
The Republican parties in Hawaii and Rhode Island sent a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission asking for an investigation. Brown denied wrongdoing but returned the money.
According to quarterly FEC reports filed this month, Brown had just $35,000 left in his campaign coffers for the primary, while Whitehouse had more than $1.3 million.
The two men joined each other yesterday afternoon at the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, where they worked together nine years earlier to clean the area and build a bike path. Brown recalled the way Whitehouse donned wading boots and strode into the river to remove old tires littering it.
"We worked hard here, and we're going to work hard together going forward to win this race," he said.
Brown and Whitehouse said their top priority was helping Democrats regain control of the Senate, where Republicans have a five-seat majority. Chafee, a moderate Republican, is seen as vulnerable because Rhode Island votes heavily Democratic.
Mary Diamond, executive director of the Rhode Island Republican Party, said Brown's announcement was not a surprise.
"People thought that Matt Brown was out before today," she said.
Diamond said it was up to the FEC to decide what happens to the complaint the two parties filed against Brown.
Brown, who was a community activist before he was secretary of state, said he would not file to run for re-election. Several other candidates are running to replace him in the November election.