In politics money speaks louder than words.
That's why when it was announced that John Hazen White Jr. CEO of TACO Industries would be speaking at a March 4 fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Ken Block it caught a lot of people's attention. That, and well, just a few months ago John Hazen White Jr. allowed Allan Fung to make his gubernatorial announcement from inside TACO Industries in Cranston.
Fast forward a few months, Ken Block has been spending a lot of time with Hazen White. The two attended the same out of state conference and now Hazen White is speaking at Block's fundraiser, just months after welcoming Fung to TACO Industries to make his big announcement. Hazen White had nothing but nice things to say about Fung, although he was very clear that he was not endorsing Fung or even making any endorsements at that point.
Hazen White is a well-known player in the business world and the political world. In 2010 Hazen White mainly stayed out of the gubernatorial race until the tail end when he hosted a Mitt Romney Rally for John Robitaille at TACO, just days before the election. He did cut Robitaille a few checks starting in March ultimately totaling $1000.
In the 2014 gubernatorial race, Hazen White has been a bit more public but it is what's happening behind the scenes that is really interesting. While making nice with both Ken Block and Allan Fung, Hazen Whiter is also chumming up to the Democrats, in a meaningful way; with a check. In June, (albeit before any candidates for governor, were announced however it was no secret who the candidates would be), Hazen White cut both Angel Taveras and Gina Raimondo a check for $1,000.
Throughout 2013, starting in February, Hazen White also cut Allan Fung several smaller checks; one for $500.00 in February, another for $250.00 in June and a final check for $250.00 in September, totaling $1,000 in 2013.
Conspicuously missing from Hazen White's contribution reports is Ken Block. Maybe the check is in the mail or hasn't been cashed yet, or maybe Hazen White wasn't sure Block was running when he cut the other checks.
One thing is clear, Hazen White, like a good business man, seems to be hedging his bets. While the contributions were made to Raimondo and Taveras in June before they were announced candidates for Governor, a person would need to live under a rock to not know that they were going to run.
Hazen White seems willing to accept any governor that he finds to be pro-business. While he is out in front of the Republican campaigns, he is certainly not discounting Raimondo and Taveras. Raimondo and Taveras are not known to be anti-business candidates so Hazen White's support doesn't seem misguided.
In Rhode Island World, Hazen White is one of the big "corporate guns." His support matters and he has money to back up his candidates. Meanwhile, political influence is important to him, especially when it comes to good business practices and economic development. Therefore if he stays on the good side of all the candidates who might possibly become the next Governor he ensures himself political influence, outside of his own "Lookout RI" campaign. This is pretty similar to the big corporate guns in Washington who donate to candidates for president on both sides of the aisle to ensure their political influence.
One candidate that has received no attention from Hazen White is Clay Pell. This is interesting. Perhaps it is because Pell was late to enter into the race or perhaps it is because Hazen White does not see Pell as pro-business because Pell is being painted as a big union guy. Either way, time will tell.
Meanwhile as the Republicans crusade around with Hazen White, Hazen White is watching out for his bottom line and playing all sides. For this reason it would be surprising if Hazen White ever does decided to endorse any candidate. If he does it likely would not be until the election is just around the corner and his candidate has clear momentum.
Perhaps it is momentum that attracted Hazen White to Block. It can't be denied that Block has done a good job making inroads in the Republican Party and gaining traction despite his past run for governor as a Moderate. As Block gains momentum in the Republican Party it is likely that he will be able to attract the attention of important community leader like Hazen White.
Either way Hazen White is watching all the candidates closely to see where to put his support and his dollars.
Follow me on twitter: @deedequattro
(Correction: an earlier version of this piece said Hazen White donated $100 to John Robitaille, it should have been $1,000)
Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.