I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, or if it is a well known fact, but former Providence mayor “Buddy” Cianci has his own line of marinara sauce, which is sold around the city. (At the time I was regularly in Rhode Island, he also had his own line of coffee, but I’m not sure if he still does.)
Profits from the Mayor’s Marinara go to a scholarship fund for kids.
But in recent years, no money from the sauce’s sales has been donated to Cianci’s charity scholarship fund, The Associated Press has learned. From 2009 to 2012, the sauce made a total of $3 in income, longtime Cianci adviser Charles Mansolillo told the AP.
The AP thought this story was so fantastic, they gave it a special award. I have some reservations about this:
In 2009, they lost $2,200 on the sauce, Mansolillo said. The following year, they made $2,974, while in 2011, they lost $2,969. In 2012, they made $2,198 profit, he said. That adds up to a profit of just $3 during the 4-year period.
Is it possible they weren’t making money because former Mayor Cianci was kind of out of the public eye during this period? (He got out of prison in 2007, and had some radio and television gigs, but I don’t know what kind of public visibility those brought him. At least one of the shows he hosted was the “weekend public affairs program”
Four Leather Chairs Against a Blue Background On the Record with Buddy Cianci. What kind of ratings do those get?)
Cianci and Mansolillo said sales have been hurt in past years by mismanagement from some of the sauce’s previous distributors, one of which went bankrupt. During the time when Cianci was in prison from 2002 to 2007, the sauce sometimes was not on the shelves at all.
Bob Borges, gourmet manager at Eastside Market in Providence, said the sauce sells well at his store, which goes through about a dozen 12-jar cases a month. He said he thinks first-time purchasers might buy it because they think sales are benefiting children, but they wouldn’t get the repeat sales they get unless it was good. They sell it for $5.69 per jar.
This story, for some reason, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. To be fair, though, there’s a related story by the same author that’s a little more interesting. You know that scholarship fund mentioned earlier?
The charity’s IRS filings show that it had $434,126 in assets as of June 30, 2013, and received around $25,000 in investment income that year. It gave out $11,000 in grants and spent $32,061 total in expenses. The year before, it had $3,862 in revenue and gave out $12,000 in grants, and before that it received $10,972 in revenue and gave out $10,000 in grants.
I hate to keep sounding like Buddy Cianci’s defender. But if this is a scam, it seems to be a very penny-ante scam. It sounds like something that started out as a PR opportunity and went a little off the rails.
(ETA: Forgot to give Romenesko credit.)