PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former Mayor Buddy Cianci's face beams from the label of his Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce, which also promises that sales are "Benefiting Providence School Children" and have helped hundreds of students attend college.
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.
Mansolillo — Cianci's former city solicitor and the vice president, secretary and treasurer of the company that sells the pasta sauce — acknowledged the label could be misunderstood and said he would like to see it changed.
"People are thinking that every time they are buying a bottle of pasta (sauce) they're making a contribution. That is not necessarily the case. That's got to be clearly stated," Mansolillo said. "It benefits the scholarship fund when it's possible. ... I don't think even in the best year any more than two or three scholarships could be said to come from that."
Cianci was mayor for a combined 21 years over two separate stints starting in 1975. Both ended in felony convictions. He started selling the sauce in 1995, during his second go-round as mayor and before he was sent to prison in 2002 for presiding over widespread corruption in City Hall. He is now running again for his old job as an independent.
The ex-mayor said he puts money into the sauce every year and has never personally made money on it. He said expenses such as labels, taxes and insurance eat away profits many years. Even if the sauce loses money some years, it's great publicity for the scholarship, and, admittedly, for himself, he acknowledged.
"There's a certain public relations aspect to it all to me, I can't deny that," Cianci told the AP.
In 1994, Cianci set up a fund that awards scholarships to college-bound high school seniors from Providence. This year, 13 students received the $1,000 scholarship. A press release dated June 8 states, "The scholarships are funded from a portion of the sales from The Mayor's Own Marinara sauce."
Mansolillo is also president of the scholarship fund, and he told the AP that they always intended to use the income to supplement the scholarship fund. The fund currently has about $500,000 in assets, he said.
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.
Much of the money currently in the fund came from previous fundraising efforts, such as golf tournaments, as well as sales of the pasta sauce, Cianci and Mansolillo said.
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