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Soup Kitchen Donors Demagoguing Paul Ryan's Visit

We have to wonder what kind of “grief” he is receiving. What kind of donors are “not pleased” and would threaten to pull their funding from a soup kitchen because Paul Ryan and his kids stopped by? We do know that the center has at least one major donor couple that has also contributed to Democratic causes. In 2010, St. Vincent De Paul was celebrating a $53,075 dining hall renovation, made possible by a generous $50,000 donation from Anthony and Mary Lariccia of Boardman. Anthony Lariccia, vice president of brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, is a well known philanthropist in the area. His family has donated millions to Youngstown State, his alma mater.

Lariccia and his wife have also made substantial donations to Democratic candidates, including liberal Rep.Tim Ryan and $20,000 between them to Attorney General Marc Dann in 2006. Dann is one of the most corrupt politicians in the history of the state of Ohio. He was investigated for bribery, cronyism, sexual harassment, and turning his office into “a raucous frat party.” He finally resigned after a plurality of Republicans and Democrats began the process of impeaching him.

St. Vincent De Paul president Brian Antal didn’t provide names of the donors who were threatening to pull funding from the soup kitchen because of Ryan’s visit. Nevertheless, it is disheartening that some would threaten to cut their donations to the needy because of a 15-minute campaign stop.

It’s also disheartening that Antal is showing his own political stripes and is demagoguing the soup kitchen incident, despite being a self-described “independent voter”:

But he did specifically criticize Ryan for wanting to eliminate the small amount of federal money the society gets for the dining hall.

“That is a little two-faced to say the least,” he said. “I cannot have the appearance that we are endorsing the Republicans by letting them use our facility for photo ops and publicity stunts.”

Antal and his friends have clearly missed some important points in their rush to score points for the Youngstown Democratic political machine. The first is that Paul Ryan is still Congressman Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee. If Antal has a problem with the $12,000/year in funding he receives from the federal government, pulling a partisan political stunt like this may not be the best way to help his cause. (And for what it’s worth, a sitting congressman may actually have a right to stop in and see how the federal dollars are being spent.)

The second is a basic rule of running a non-profit organization: Good public relations = good donations. The corollary is also true. Antal could have quietly smoothed things over with his donors in private and moved on. Instead, the head of the Catholic charity chose to pick a very public fight with a Catholic VP candidate. Some of the comments on the Vindicator website showed the repercussions:

"From now on my donation to St. Vincent Depaul will be 'fake.'"

"Pretty sad how they chastised a fellow Catholic who is dedicated to his faith. I wonder if the Bishop has some thoughts about the director's comments."

"Never another penny from me either. They had approval now they want to whine about it."

"This 'president' of St. Vincent De Paul Society, Brian Antal, is totally disrespectful and out of line. Wonder how much money he makes from this "charity"? I have donated to the past to their cause. NEVER AGAIN."

While Antal likely scored some points with the political bosses in Youngstown, in the long run he may regret this partisan grandstanding.