CHATHAM — The political narrative in town has entered a new chapter, with Chatham hosting what appears to be its first political action committee.
Last Wednesday, West Chatham resident Rick Leavitt registered a new PAC called the Chatham Citizens for Responsible Government with the town clerk's office. The stated purpose of the committee is “to inform Chatham voters on issues affecting the operation of local government that impact their livelihood and traditional way of life.” The filing indicates that the committee will take positions on various issues.
Leavitt, who is also chairman of the West Chatham Village and Business Association, stepped down from his seat on the zoning board of appeals to avoid any appearance of a conflict, he wrote in a press release.
“The committee is made up of hard-working Chatham families and taxpayers in the retail, restaurant, hospitality and fishing industries, building trades, professional services and related industries,” the release reads. Leavitt declined to say how many members the committee has.
On Thursday, the day after the PAC was registered, it sent out an email criticizing incumbent Selectman Seth Taylor, who is seeking reelection in May, for trying to appoint his brother Peter to two town committees. The email does not endorse a specific candidate, but urges people to “vote for integrity and fairness on May 11th. That's not Seth Taylor.” Taylor is being challenged by Shareen Davis in the annual election.
Leavitt said the PAC will speak out on a variety of issues.
“It is not just about Seth Taylor,” he said. “We want to address issues in the community, and this is a wonderful vehicle for doing it.”
Leavitt said the PAC does not accomplish anything that individuals or informal groups of citizens might accomplish on their own.
“Many of the members who are interested will speak out personally and publicly themselves,” he said. The PAC allows like-minded citizens to speak as a group, Leavitt said.
Like candidates, political action committees can receive financial contributions, but must disclose them publicly.
“We will publicly report expenditures transparently and regularly,” Leavitt wrote in the news release. “We believe an informed citizenry is essential to preserving and advancing Chatham's longstanding heritage as a cohesive community caring for the interests of all residents, not just special interests.
“We have become alarmed by recent harmful trends seeking to divide Chatham,” he wrote. “Chatham's great strength derives from its diversity of people united in their care for one another and their enduring love for Chatham.”
The committee will regularly send communication using an email list compiled by members. The list currently has around 1,500 addresses, Leavitt said. Eventually, the PAC will rely on social media as another means of public communication, he added.