Out-of State Millionaires Are Big Players in RI Politics and Business

Monday, October 31, 2016


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California's Ray Meador will be a big winner in Question 5 passes

They are out-of-state millionaires, yet they ask Rhode Islanders for millions in tax breaks for their own benefit.

Some used to live in Rhode Island and then moved to Florida for the sun and better tax rate, while others see Rhode Island as a good target for business and an opportunity to receive millions in financial subsidies.

Take ProvPort’s Ray Meador, one of the owners of the Port in Providence who currently lives in San Rafael, California. On Election Day, voters will be asked to approve Question 5 and of the $70 million, $20 million is targeted so more land can be purchased at taxpayer expense for the benefit of ProvPort.

It is highly unusual that passage of a bond question would so directly economically benefit one business person.

ProvPort is a non-profit with just one employee and funnels millions of dollars in income from the port through the non-profit ProvPort directly to Meador's for-profit company in management fees.

According to IRS documents, ProvPort paid management fees of $3.731 million in 2012, $3.631 million in 2013, and $3.655 million in 2014 — totaling over $11 million in total management fees to the for-profit company. These are the most recent tax documents available. The management fees are approximately fifty-percent of ProvPort's total revenue.

Political Ties

Meador, along with his wife and son, have donated more than $30,000 in political contributions to top elected officials in RI, including to Governor Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and Treasurer Seth Magaziner, but their campaign windfalls are all dwarfed compared to the more than $20,000 the California family has donated to Congressman David Cicilline.

Most recently, Meador’s partner for the for-profit company on Friday poured in another $50,000 into the effort to help gain passage of Question #5.

The Port is not Meador’s only play in RI. He was also tied to a financial scheme that lead to the bankruptcy at the Central Falls Wyatt Prison. READ MORE HERE.

As GoLocal previously reported, “An independent investigation by former State Auditor General Ernie Almonte conducted 2011 and subsequent Forensic Investigative Report in 2013 found Anthony Ventetuolo, AVCORR and others guilty of conflict of interest, potential breaches of state law and financial abuse. 

Meador was brought in by Ventetuolo to serve as the “financial advisor” to the Wyatt Detention board in the early 2000s. Simultaneously he was the de-facto owner of ProvPort. Meador purchased ProvPort from former-Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci’s administration in 1994 -- and later worked with Bill Brody to create the two symbiotic companies. The non-profit ProvPort has revenue of over $7 million annually, but lists just only employee — Brody who earns $225,000 annually. 

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LA's Robbins received $3.6 million for Commerce RI. Lives in Florida

Millions to LA’s "Notorious Slumlord” 

A GoLocalProv.com investigation into the recent decision by Commerce RI to approve $3.6 million in subsidies for Lance Robbins a California man that has a dubious background resulted recently in a protest at Robbins' Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket

Public interest attorney Lauren Saunders told GoLocal, “Robbins was one of the most dishonest and unscrupulous people I have come across in my career working for vulnerable tenants and consumers. I cannot imagine entrusting any (public) money to him.”

Saunders, who is now Associate Director of the National Consumer Law Center in Washington, DC, had battled with Robbins when she represented tenants in Los Angeles, CA where Robbins operated before relocating to Rhode Island.

Now after GoLocal’s series, Commerce's Stefan Pryor has announced that the deal with Robbins in under review.

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John Taylor, Chair of Twin River's parent company

Lived in Rhode Island, and Left

The most expensive political fight this year in Rhode Island is the effort to move the Newport Grand Casino to Tiverton and expand its gaming offerings to a full casino. Twin River’s funding the multi-million campaign to gain approval of the effort to move and expand the gaming facility.

As most every Rhode Islander has seen or read a Vote Yes on Question #1 ad. The ads all tagged with “PAID FOR BY CITIZENS TO CREATE JOBS AND PROTECT REVENUE, INC., JOHN E. TAYLOR, JR., PRESIDENT.” John Taylor is chairman of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc.

Taylor, a native Rhode Islander, who started his career as a staffer for Governor Edward DiPrete and worked for GTECH (now IGT), is now a Florida resident.

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Proposed PawSox Stadium, owners wanted more than $120M in subsidies

Out-of-State PawSox Owners Wanted than $120 Million in Subsidies

In 2015, the then-new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox sought to move the team from McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket to a proposed new stadium in Providence. As part of the deal proposed by the group of millionaires and billionaires, the ownership group would receive $120 million in state subsidies and be tax free.

The ownership group — now comprised of nine (after the death of Jim Sleffington) has only one Rhode Island resident, Habib Gorgi of Nautic Partners. Rhode Island’s Retirement Commission has invested a three different Nautic Partners’ funds totaling $60 million. The state's investment in Nautic Partners has performed well.

Other than Gorgi, all the other PawSox owners are out-of-state residents. Former Fleet CEO Terry Murray was a Rhode Island resident for many years as was former CVS CEO Tom Ryan both who were part of the PawSox ownership group.

The others in the PawSox ownership group - Ben Cammarata, founder of retailer T.J. Maxx; Bill Egan of Alta Communications; Arthur Nicholas who is a part owner in the Red Sox and is a top West Coast finance guy; Frank Resnek of Churchill Forge Properties in Newton, MA; Larry Lucchino who is the former president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox; and Fenway Sports Management (subsidiary of John Henry’s sports management group). 

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Alan Hassenfeld, former CEO of Hasbro - lives in Florida

Not Just Subsidies - Guns,Too

In the effort to promote gun control, former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld has been spending upwards of $40,000 plus to support candidates that favor strong gun control. According to campaign finance reports, RI for Gun Safety received another $23,000 in funding last week.

Hassenfeld is now a resident Palm Springs, Florida according to testimony he recently gave in the trial of Dan Doyle.

Flight of Rhode Island CEOs to Florida?

The former CEOs of many of Rhode Island’s great homegrown companies — Fleet, CVS and Hasbro — are all now officially Florida residents. While the winters are warmer the lack of income tax may be the biggest motivation. 


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