The former Rhode Island Republican Party executive director who created an “Eighty-Six Trump” political action committee has decided to “eighty-six” the whole idea.
Robert A. Paquin III launched the PAC’s website in July, looking to raise money from across the political spectrum to support statewide or legislative candidates who oppose President Trump. But on Tuesday, he told the Globe he has not raised any money and is shutting the PAC down.
“It’s definitely unfortunate, but I think I’ve learned from this,” Paquin said. “I can do something better to help people politically than unite everyone that hates the president.”
Paquin served as state GOP director in 2014, he voted for Trump in 2016, and he managed Republican Giovanni Feroce’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2018.
But Paquin, who now lives in Stonington, Conn., became disenchanted with Trump and switched from Republican to unaffiliated earlier this year.
In July, he launched a website, ESTPAC.org, that pictured Trump apparently mocking a disabled reporter. “Is this what the leader of the free world should look like?” the website asked. “We cannot ignore the classist, racist, and overall prejudicial policies of President Donald Trump.”
But on Tuesday, Paquin said he is ending the PAC in part because people he spoke to about it wanted to change its scope or direction.
“One person wanted to leverage the platform to lead the reorganization of the Rhode Island Republican Party -- to pull people in who are against Trump but who are registered Republicans or lean right,” he said. “It was a good idea but not what I wanted to accomplish.”
Paquin said he suspects non-Republicans were leery of him given his past involvement with the party. “A few people told me to go pound sand,” he said. “But there were some Democrats who thought it was a great idea.”
Also, he said he now sees that his PAC was trying to employ Trump’s own tactics.
“It was combatting divisive politics with more divisive politics,” he said. “I was feeding off people’s anger and hatred for him. Now, I’m going in a different direction that is more constructive and inclusive.”
Paquin said he is launching a federal super PAC that would let voters direct independent expenditures to wide variety of “funds.” The politifunds.org website lists “fund opportunities” ranging from “MAGA Mania” for Trump supporters to “Weekend at Bernie’s” for supporters of US Senator Bernie Sanders.
Paquin has said the “Eighty-Six Trump” PAC’s name stemmed from the “86 45” T-shirts that a Mexican restaurant in Westerly, R.I., had been selling in 2018.
At the time, the restaurant owner said the T-shirts were advocating for impeaching Trump, the 45th president, and that “86” was restaurant lingo for getting rid of a food order. But state Senator Elaine Morgan, a Hopkinton Republican, called for boycotting the restaurant, saying she believed the shirts were advocating for violence against Trump. Paquin said “86” was not meant as a threat but simply advocated for replacing Trump as president.
On Tuesday, Morgan said she was not surprised to hear that the “Eighty-Six Trump” PAC had raised no money and was closing down.
“The silent majority speaks very loud and clear right there,” she said.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chair Sue Cienki she doesn’t know Paquin. “What he hoped to accomplish, I’m not quite sure,” she said.