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INVESTIGATION: Complex Web of Private Political Consulting Business Runs Through Raimondo’s Office

Thursday, November 02, 2017


Governor Gina Raimondo and Brett Smiley

In 2017, companies that Governor Gina Raimondo’s Chief of Staff Brett Smiley owns received payments from many prominent Democrats, including payment from one of the House Democratic Leadership PACs and a $2,030 payment from then-federal inmate and former Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox . 

Smiley earns $176,419 as Raimondo's Chief of Staff. 

Over the past five years, Rhode Island state and local candidates have paid a web of Smiley-owned companies just under $300,000. Federal candidates both in Rhode Island and around the country have paid Smiley’s firms hundreds of thousands in additional payments. 

“Smiley's continued ownership of the firm raises the questions that have yet to be answered. In the past we've told GoLocal that Common Cause believes Smiley should seek an advisory opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission with respect to his continued ownership of the consulting firm,” said John Marion, head of Rhode Island Common Cause.

Smiley, Galvin, and Raimondo

If Smiley’s web of political consulting firms was not intertwined enough with Democratic elected officials and candidates, GoLocal has learned that the Vice President of Smiley’s CFO Compliance company, Ed Galvin, also has a related consulting business that is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by dozens of Democratic political campaigns — including the Raimondo campaign.

Offices are in the same space at One Park Row in Providence.

Since 2010, Galvin's "Galvin & Associates" has been paid more than $400,000 by the campaigns of Rhode Island Democratic candidates and officials. And, Galvin was once Raimondo’s campaign Treasurer.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Board of Elections show that "Raimondo for Governor" paid Galvin & Associates in the third quarter of 2017 over $8,000.

“While he [Smiley] has recused from discussion of the governor's campaign finance proposals, the Providence Journal reported his involvement in the hiring of the new Executive Director of the Board of Elections, and they have oversight of campaign finance. The public deserves clarity about the impact of Mr. Smiley's continued ownership on his activities as the governor's Chief of Staff," said Marion.

To make the relationship between Smiley and Galvin event more complex, the Smiley-owned CFO Compliance and Galvin and Associates share the same office space on the 5th floor of One Park Row in Providence.

Mayor Don Grebien of Pawtucket, one of CFO Consulting’s clients tells GoLocal in an email, “I’ve gone back to verify what I shared earlier. The campaign has made only two payments, one in Dec. 2015, the other in March of 2016 with no activity in 2017 to CFO Consulting [which is] a reputable firm.”

“I’m not sure what Brett’s involvement is/was with CFO Consulting or the actual date he started working for the Governor. This date might be relevant and it would be helpful to know. I’ve always dealt with Meg at CFO and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I had any direct dealings with Brett. This was in regard to Memorial Hospital,” said Grebien.

GOP candidate for Governor Patricia Morgan told GoLocal, “Of course, this is a conflict of interest.  Since the Governor’s Chief of Staff collects information and advises the Governor on policy decisions, he has influence that can either help or hurt a municipal executive. In this case, with taxpayer funding of the PawSox stadium on the table, there are too many gray areas that can come in to play. For instance, if the stadium is approved, the lease that controls the amount financial liability transferred from the ball team owners to the state’s taxpayers, will most certainly involve the Chief of Staff.”

Ed Galvin of CFO Compliance and Galvin & Associates

The Web of Smiley’s Companies

GoLocal asked Smiley to clarify how he could continue to own businesses that do business with clients that meet with and do public business with the governor’s office and simultaneously have a business relationship with Smiley’s companies, but he did not respond.

David Ortiz, spokesperson for Raimondo, responded by email -- instead of Smiley -- with the following. 

“Brett has been on an indefinite leave from CFO for almost four years. He receives no income and does no work for the business," said Ortiz. 

It is unclear why a spokesperson and state employee on Raimondo's staff would respond to questions about Smiley’s private companies.

And, Smiley’s websites tell a different story and contradict Ortiz's claims. While Smiley was serving as the Governor’s chief-of-staff, he was listed as founder and partner of CFO-Consultant months after assuming the position in September of 2016.

“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.  Brett Smiley owns and benefits from the consulting firm.  The firm should not be providing work to decision-makers, and that includes Mayor Grebien. I’m sure there are other firms that can provide the services without the conflict of interest,” said Morgan.

Mutliple messages left for Galvin were not responded to.


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

Prev Next

Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

Prev Next

Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

Prev Next

Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

Prev Next

Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

Prev Next

Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

Prev Next

Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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