CD1 campaign finance reports highlight haves and have-nots in crowded race

Personal loan puts Don Carlson at top of heap for campaign war chests

Thirteen candidates running for Rhode Island’s open 1st Congressional District seat filed campaign finance reports for the second quarter ending June 30, 2023. (Getty image)

Jamestown investor Don Carlson is flaunting his deep pockets in the 1st Congressional District race by pouring $600,000 into his own campaign, according to newly published federal campaign finance reports. 

Thanks to that six-figure personal loan, Carlson, a Democrat, closed the second quarter with the biggest war chest: $769,988. That’s nearly double the amount of fellow Democrat Aaron Regunberg, who had the second-most cash on hand with $396,987 as of June 30, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.

The deadline for candidates to submit financial reports to the FEC was Saturday, July 15. Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Rhode Island Secretary of State certified a list of 15 candidates who made the ballot, based on the 500-signature requirement. Democratic candidate Marvin Abney did not meet the threshold, collecting only 458 certified signatures.

The primary is Sept. 5. The special general election is Nov. 7. 

Fifteen candidates meet signature requirements in CD1 race

Carlson blew his competitors out of the water in terms of his campaign coffers, but he can’t claim the top spot on all measurements. Regunberg, a former state representative, claims the title of most funds raised, raking in $470,665 in second-quarter donations.

A majority of Regunberg’s contributions, $453,415, came from individual donors, ranging from local residents to a bevy of state representatives and Providence City Council members, along with business owners like acclaimed vegan restaurateur Kim Anderson, who owns Plant City.  Regunberg reported another $17,250 in donations from political action committees, including the Jane Fonda Climate PAC. 

Matos dominates in PAC money

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos revealed deep and wide support from national political organizations, reporting $39,000 in PAC donations in the second quarter – the most of any candidate. That’s on top of $156,385 in individual donations, including contributions from Bruce and Chris Waterson, of ProvPort operator Waterson Terminal Services, and Jerry Sahagian, Gov. Dan McKee’s fundraising chairman who attended the infamous Capital Grille lunch under scrutiny for potential ethics violations.

Jamestown police investigating Matos campaign for alleged signature fraud

Matos ended the quarter with $215,000 cash on hand, the fifth-highest amount.

Falling behind Carlson and Regunberg but above Matos were fellow Democrats Gabe Amo and State Sen. Sandra Cano.

Amo, a former White House staffer, reported $311,394 in his campaign account as of June 30, after raising $462,553 in the second quarter, nearly all of which came from individual donors. Among Amo’s contributors were prominent Providence developer Arnold “Buff” Chase, former 2nd Congressional District Democratic candidate Joy Fox and Matthew Santacroce, who heads Rhode Island’s Office of Cannabis Regulation.

Amo was also the top spender, edging out Carlson with $147,409 in second-quarter expenses,  including campaign staffing, credit card fees, and air and train travel to Fort Worth, Texas and D.C.

Cano, a Pawtucket Democrat, did not have nearly as impressive a fundraising showing, reporting $141,511 in the second quarter. However, thanks to the balance from the prior quarter, which included an $80,000 personal loan, Cano ended the reporting period with $250,272 cash on hand. Her second-quarter donors included Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, HousingWorksRI Director Brenda Clements and a half dozen fellow state senators. 

Eight other candidates filed campaign finance reports for the second quarter. Here are the highlights.

  • Walter Berbrick, who resigned from his job as a Naval War College professor to run for Congress, ended the quarter with $103,846 in his campaign account. Berbrick, a Democrat, reported $146,308 in campaign donations, all of which came from individual donors, including family members and current or retired military personnel, including a $1,000 donation from former U.S. Naval War College President Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley. Other donors included Newport restaurateur Patrick Kilroy who donated the maximum allowed $3,300 and former independent Jamestown Town Councilwoman Ellen Winsor, a nonresident research fellow at the War College, who gave a total of $500. Berbrick spent $1,504 on his campaign.
  • Nicholas Autiello, a Democrat and former aide to then-Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, had $97,166 cash on hand. That’s after raising $120,905 in donations plus a $1,000 personal loan, and spending $126,813. He previously loaned his campaign $11,910. Autiello’s donors include Massachusetts State Rep. Adam Scanlon and Wade Rakes, the CEO and President of Peach State Health Plan, the largest health insurer in the state of Georgia. He spent $25,000 on a TV ad placement through DC-based Steamship Media, plus $13,926 to the same company for video production.
  • Providence City Councilman John Goncalves had $56,482 cash on hand. His campaign received $97,902 in donations and has spent $78,872. His donations  included $3,000 from David Sweetser, principal of High Rock Development, which owns and is leading the redevelopment of the Superman building, and $2,970 from Providence landlord and developer Dustin Dezube.
  • State Sen. Ana Quezada, a Providence Democrat, had $43,1188 on hand. Her campaign received $71,365 in total contributions, including donations from Sen. Frank Ciccone III and Rep. Scott Slater. Quezada’s campaign has spent $28,247, with $5,000 to the Rhode Island Democratic Party for use of the Voter Activation Network (VAN) database.
  • State Rep. Stephen Casey, a Woonsocket Democrat, ended the reporting period with $36,544, spending $13,013 and raising $49,555 — including a $250 donation from the Right to Life Federal PAC. Casey also received $250 from former State Rep. Robert Jacquard, who is now a member of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Jacquard made his donation approximately two weeks before McKee named him to the commission. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi also personally donated $1,000 to Casey’s campaign.
  • The Rhode Island Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, Gerry W. Leonard Jr. of Jamestown, ended the quarter with $31,307 in cash on hand. His campaign spent just $630 of the $31,937 he raised. The Jamestown Republican Committee contributed $2,500. The rest came from individual donors.
  • State Rep. Marvin Abney, a Newport Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Finance, ended the quarter with $14,772 in cash on hand after raising $77,050. His campaign spent $62,279, of which $13,763 was for polling and a total of $24,500 went to marketing services. Other expenditures included $3,700 for web services and a $2,250 banner for the Newport Gulls, the city’s home team of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Abney received $1,000 from the Friends of Joe Shekarchi and $400 from the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers and $150 from the National Association of Government Employees. Donations to Abney’s campaign included a $2,000 contribution from former Rhode Island Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee and $500 from former Newport Democratic Rep. Christopher Boyle. Abney also received the maximum allowed donation of $3,300 each from Bellevue Capital Ventures, Inc. President and Chairman Jonathan Pardee and his wife, the lifestyle and gardening writer Bettie Pardee. On May 1, Abney also received a $3,300 donation and a $50,000 loan from Newport resident John Brooks.
  • Stephanie Beauté, a Democrat who ran for Secretary of State in 2022, ended the quarter with $5,837 in cash on hand, spending only $364 of the $6,201 she raised from individual donors.

Four more Democratic candidates filed paperwork with the FEC signaling their candidacy in the race, but did not raise or spend any money or did not raise or spend  enough money (more than $5,000) to be subject to financial disclosure rules in the second quarter. They are Allen Waters, Michael Tillinghast, Gregory Mundy and Bella Noka. 

This story has been updated to include John Brooks’ contribution and loan to Rep. Marvin Abney’s campaign and reflects a correction to Sen. Ana Quezada’s expenditure for use of the Voter Activation Network (VAN) database.


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Nancy Lavin
Nancy Lavin

Nancy Lavin is senior reporter covering state politics, energy and environmental issues for the Rhode Island Current.

Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.

Janine L. Weisman
Janine L. Weisman

Rhode Island Current Editor-in-Chief Janine L. Weisman served as a reporter and editor during her 25-year career in the newsroom of The Newport Daily News. She is an adjunct journalism faculty member at Roger Williams University.