Two Correntes, no relation to one another, are facing off in the first skirmish of the 2018 race for mayor.
Anthony Corrente, chair of the Warwick Republican City Committee, has charged Democratic candidate for Mayor Richard Corrente “with willful and knowing violation of the state’s campaign finance reporting laws.” The Republicans filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections that candidate Corrente failed to report an expenditure he made for a full-page advertisement appearing in the Dec. 16 Pennysaver, a shopper publication published by Beacon Communications.
In an interview Monday, Corrente provided records showing he paid $396.90 for the ad from his campaign account on Jan. 31. He said since the payment was made in January he didn’t record it in December, even though that is when the expense was incurred.
“I always pay my bills on time,” Corrente said.
Further, Corrente accused Republicans of conducting a “slur campaign” that they initiated through the city with a demand to remove his campaign signs under an ordinance that was challenged and found unconstitutional by the United States District Court in 2001. The law restricted campaign signs to 60 days before an election.
On Dec. 14, 2017 the city zoning inspector, Adam Fielder, sent Corrente a notice of violation of the ordinance demanding he remove signs at 2194 Warwick Ave. within five days or he would face a $500 per-day penalty and lien on his property.
Corrente contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, and on Dec. 28 its executive director, Steven Brown, wrote Fielder asking him to immediately rescind the notice of violation, saying that a time restriction on the posting of political signs is a violation of the First Amendment.
On Jan. 3 Corrente received an email from Alfred DeCorte, director of code enforcement/building official, that the complaint had been withdrawn.
In his press release, Anthony Corrente focuses on the lack of a report on the expenditure for the advertisement. He notes that the candidate loaned his campaign $100 to pay for bank fees with no other record of expenses.
“Was this [the cost of the ad] an illegal corporate contribution from his business, or an unreported donation from himself?” he writes.
Corrente the candidate explained he operates his headquarters from his mortgage company office.
“I have not charged my campaign any money,” he said.
As for payment of the ad, he said he initially wrote a check from his mortgage company, but when he realized he made a mistake, at his request, the Beacon refunded the money and he wrote a check from his campaign account.
Corrente said he made a $500 loan to his campaign account on Jan. 31. He said that as of Monday his campaign account had a balance of $64.10.
Richard Thornton, Director of Campaign Finance for the state Board of Elections, said as a practice the board does not acknowledge whether a complaint has been filed or not. He said, “All investigations are confidential.”
GOP Chairman Corrente provided a copy of the committee’s complaint. In part, it reads in his most recent state filing in 2017, “Mr. Corrente does not report any expenses related to operating a campaign headquarters.”
Asked what he thought of the Republican attack, Corrente the candidate countered, “I’d rather die than have anyone successfully attack my character.”