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Donna Perry: Cicilline Will Do Anything to get Re-Elected

Thursday, December 15, 2011


It turns out there is more than one “something stinks here” Rhode Island story making the rounds this week.

There may be a rotten egg odor /gas emission problem emanating from the Central Landfill in Johnston,but something is distinctly politically rotten at the redistricting hearing process now nearing completion at the Statehouse.

It’s got Congressman David Cicilline’s “Do Anything to get Elected” playbook written all over it. The same higher office seeking politician whose cover-ups and lies about the true nature of the budgetary disaster he left in Providence appears to be working just a little too hard behind the scenes to manipulate the redrawing of his district to ward off potent competition for his seat, primarily in the form of Republican Brendan Doherty.

Make no mistake about it. It’s Doherty he fears most and so he and his top staffers have been working the process, working the consultant, working powerful political friends and allies (Speaker Gordon Fox) and apparently, even willing to work around and double cross his Second District Democratic colleague, Congressman Langevin, to drastically alter the makeup of the First district to his advantage.

It seems a bit more than a classic gerrymandering attempt is underway when one considers the census called for moving district lines only to relocate 7,200 people from District Two into District One—mostly within Providence city lines. Yet the redrawn map plan now at the center of the dispute would shift over 100,000 people, moving all of Doherty leaning towns of Smithfield, North Smithfield, and Burrillville out of the First District and vastly expanding the presence of Providence neighborhoods into the First District, including all of the growing Hispanic and other immigrant community populations of South Providence.

This is the same politician who told bald faced lies weeks and even days before the election in 2010, telling debate audiences how he was leaving Providence “in very good financial shape” and had worked to close deficits and resolve the city’s mounting fiscal debt. So, after a detailed fiscal audit of city finances was released by city fiscal adviser Gary Sasse and Auditor Matthew Clarkin,Cicilline went on the attack against the highly regarded Sasse as a “Republican architect” of part of the city’s fiscal mess because of his service in the administration of former Republican Governor Carcieri at a time when the administration had made substantial aid cuts to the city. It was another gross manipulation of the truth, but right out of the Playbook. It was also useful as a spin line to convert the city’s crisis into campaign cash. (That’s right, as you may recall, he used the“blame theRepublicans for the city’s fiscal crisis” spin as fodder for a fundraising appeal that went out within a short time of the fiscal audit report last spring.)

Now with the growing redistricting controversy, Cicilline has returned to the playbook. Here’s how it goes:

First, “I did nothing wrong.”Campaign spokeswoman Nicole Kayner last week was spinning that Cicilline and Langevin’s office both were giving equal input on voter data to the national redistricting authority.

Yet according to Langevin spokesman Jonathan Dworkin, the truth is that Langevin’s staff only began giving input to the federal redistricting arm of the National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC) once they learned Camp Cicilline had been helping to “crunch precinct voter data” since last spring to “assist” the redistricting process.

Second, “I am a victim of unfair criticisms.” Spokeswoman Kayner now questions the level of criticism, saying only two of five redrawn maps being considered truly benefit Cicilline and is now saying “of course we want a favorable District like anyone running for office.”(Implication: Team Langevin has been doing the same thing we have been doing.)

Third, “I will utilize fundraising contributors to benefit from this.”It was reported this week that Cicilline tapped associates from his campaign fundraising apparatus to testify before the Redistricting Commission at the Statehouse in October. Carlos Tobon and Laura Rodriguez, who co-hosted a fundraiser for Cicilline this fall, were two of four people testifying that the Cicilline map plan would enhance Hispanic representation in the district.

Only time will tell if Cicilline gets to fully utilize the Playbook’s section on the shameless pandering to minority communities, especially specific communities of Providence residents with questionable legal status, should the current controversial redrawn map plan go through.

At the final Redistricting hearings, scheduled for tonight and early next week, don’t be surprised to see Team Cicilline staffers flipping through the Playbook. The “Chapter on Shameless Pandering” may be the section they’re on.

Donna Perry is a Communications Consultant for RISC, RI Statewide Coalition http://www.statewidecoalition.com

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