Guest MINDSETTER™ Kenney: Political Doubletalk - Lies or Accepted as Truth?

Sunday, September 24, 2017


View Larger +

This past week the Republicans in the US Congress have ratcheted up their efforts to revisit their repeal and replace campaign promises of the last election regarding Obama-care. While most political pundits and unbiased observers understand is that this is nothing more than a political move designed to save face (and possibly their jobs) with their constituents back home, almost everyone involved will privately admit that this bill is extremely flawed and not in the best interest of many American citizens. The passage of this bill would certainly cause many Americans to lose their healthcare due to rising premiums, pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps and decimate the Medicare system. Congress, however, is under a deadline to pass “something/anything” before October 1. 

Doubletalk: The Republican senators interviewed on this stick to the party line that all but 4 states will get more money for healthcare under this bill and that states are better suited to make the decisions for their citizens than the federal government.

Truth: The Republican senators should state, we believe that Obama-care is doomed to fail. We’ve promised repeal/replace for 8 years now and have control of the Congress. We will be held accountable by our constituents if we do nothing so we are throwing money at the states and letting the state and local politicians take the heat. Apparently, the buck doesn’t stop with them on tough issues like this!

This type of doubletalk is often used in the public safety forum. Have you ever heard a politician say that they are making cuts to public safety even though it is going to put the public at greater risk? Of course not.

Doubletalk: Take Providence’s Mayor Elorza, for example. He recently shut down three fire companies on the East Side, two engine companies, and one ladder company. He and Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stated that these permanent closures would have no effect on public safety. Really? Nine fewer firefighters per shift and all of the fire companies on the East Side are being eliminated and there’s no effect on public safety?

That is impossible. I guess they don’t consider increasing some response times from 2 minutes to 9 minutes in some of this area of any consequence. Try telling that to one of those residents who pay the most in taxes when their house burns down because of a delayed response. Try telling that to one of these taxpayers when their husband lies on the floor not breathing and instead of having CPR started within 3 minutes it takes around 10 minutes before someone is on the scene to begin. No circulation of oxygen to the brain for more than 6 minutes causes irreparable brain damage and brain death. These things are only a matter of time.

Truth: If they were to state that their public safety cuts would, of course, have an effect on public safety but they are willing to take that chance in order to save you tax money because the public safety budget is increasing at an alarming rate that would be the truth. These type of truthful assessments, however, would rarely justify their financial decisions and would certainly put themselves and their community in a position of liability if someone was hurt or killed.

Another example of doubletalk from Providence in the news this week was from Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stating that he was:

Doubletalk: “Working to find the right fire chief expeditiously.”

Truth: We’ve exhausted all possible candidates who may have expressed interest, both internally and nationwide, but no one is interested (despite a $150K salary) in commanding(?) a large fire department in such utter disarray. We’ve had a few consider the challenge but when I explained that I would still be “in command” on a daily basis and that they would have no say in setting the new course of the department they quickly bowed out. We currently have no active applications on file.

I’ve been warning the general public, the mayor and the City Council of Mr. Pare’s crippling leadership on the once great and proud Providence Fire Department for over two years now but no one is willing to hold him accountable for his actions.

Apparently, we need to put our leaders under oath with the threat of perjury hanging over their heads for all public comments, interviews and press releases. This is not unique to Providence or to Rhode Island. This type of doubletalk seems to be the new normal. Think about it. How many times have you watched an interview or a speech and been 100% sure and aware that this “leader” is lying to all of us? And you know there will be absolutely no repercussions.

This is simply not right. We need to be able to expect, or to force, our leaders into telling us the truth so that a reasonable decision can be discussed and implemented based on facts – not their rhetoric.

View Larger +

Tom Kenney is a retired captain of the Providence Fire Department.


Related Slideshow: The Power List - Politics, 2016

View Larger +
Prev Next

Five-Tool Player

Kate Coyne-McCoy - In baseball, they call them all around superstars - five tool athletes.

McCoy, who once ran for Congress, is a strong political organizer for EMILY’s List, a proven fundraiser for Raimondo’s PAC, strong with the media, and is a top lobbyist.

She is manages to balance being a partisan with her all-around effectiveness. McCoy can do it all.

View Larger +
Prev Next

Effective Insider

Lenny Lopes - Whether you’re looking for someone to navigate the halls of the State House, manage your public relations image, or execute a contract, Lopes can do it all.

The affable and well-liked former Chief of Staff to then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch (and prior to that, Legal Counsel to Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty) had joined forces with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West before striking out on his own with The Victor Group, taking on such heavyweight clients as Lifespan and online gaming behemoths Fanduel and DraftKings, and more niche healthcare accounts — including the medical marijuana Rhode Island Growers Coalition. 

Lopes was tapped this past spring following the tourism debacle by Havas PR to help navigate their way through the Rhode Island waters, and ultimately defend their performance and reputation to stave off their contract cancelation for now. If you’re hired to be a PR firm’s de facto PR brain, you must be on your game.

View Larger +
Prev Next

Two Coast Operative

Matt Lopes - With more than 20 different lobbying agreement Lopes has emerged as a premiere influencer in Rhode Island. His clients range from Dunkin’ Donuts to Amgen to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.

While managing one of the biggest lobbying practices he is often on the West Coast -- he is a nationally recognized Special Master for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, overseeing prison reform and compliance.

He plays with the big boys on both coasts. Easy for a guy who was a star athlete in high school and at Dartmouth.

View Larger +
Prev Next

Gambling Man

Don Sweitzer - IGT (formerly GTECH) super lobbyist plays the game at most every level, with big ties to the Clinton organization that go all the way back to Sweitzer playing a key role with Clinton-Gore in 1992.

Sweitzer’s contacts span the political spectrum - despite his Democratic pedigree, don’t count him out if Donald Trump wins the Presidency as Sweitzer worked for Paul Manafort back in the early 1990s.

Reportedly, Raimondo asked him to serve as her chief of staff - he gracefully declined.

View Larger +
Prev Next

New School

Segal, Bell and Regunberg - These three young Brown grads are emerging as the leaders in progressive causes in Rhode Island and across the United States. David Segal, who served on the City Council in Providence and as a State Rep, failed in a 2010 effort for Congress losing to David Cicilline in the Democratic primary. 

In 2016, Segal along with Aaron Regunberg emerged as a powerful force in trying to kill of the Super-Delegate structure in the Democratic primary.

Sam Bell is leading a major effort to re-calibrate the Democratic party to the left the election season. We will know just how good Bell is after September 13’s Democratic primary - Bell is overseeing more than a dozen progressive candidates' campaigns.

View Larger +
Prev Next

Old School

Goldberg, Walsh, Ryan and Murphy - These four veteran lobbyists know the pass codes to just about every private office in the State House. For decades they have been the go-to guys. Regardless of who is in power Bob Goldberg, Joe Walsh, Mike Ryan and Bill Murphy are always in vogue.

Only Ryan was not an elected official. Murphy ran the House for a decade, Goldberg had pulled off one of the greatest political coups when he lead a small band of GOP senators and split the Dems to take power, and Walsh was the almost Governor of Rhode Island in 1984. 

Combined, they have the lion's share of premier clients and have collected the millions in fees to prove it.

View Larger +
Prev Next

Urban Innovator

Nicole Pollock - The new Chief-of-Staff for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza certainly has big shoes to fill, with the recent departure of both Chief Operating Officer Brett Smiley and outgoing Chief of Staff Tony Simon but Pollack has gotten off to a strong start.  Following the recent summit on Kennedy Plaza co-hosted former Mayor Joe Paolino and Elorza, Paolino told GoLocal, “[Elorza’s] new Chief of Staff, I’m very impressed with.”

Pollock had joined the administration in February 2015 as Chief Innovation Officer and then served as Chief of Policy and Innovation for the administration before being tapped for the top post. Pollock had previously served in a policy and communications role for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. A graduate of Brown University, Pollock currently serves on the Board of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Plan.

The city has no shortage of pressing issues to tackle, from devising a plan to handle the ongoing panhandling, homelessness, and drug use issues in Kennedy Plaza, to the ever-looming issue of the protracted legal battle with the Providence Firefighters that could have monumental financial implications for the city, depending on the outcome. 

Photo: LinkedIn

View Larger +
Prev Next

Emerging Star

Matt Bucci - The up-and-comer on Governor Raimondo’s staff was in the mix for Chief of Staff or another promotion this summer, but may chose to take his skills and join the world of lobbying or grab another private sector position.

Made news when he was tied to Governor Raimondo’s ill fated and ultimately canceled trip to Davos Switzerland. Raimondo was going to spend a weekend with the beautiful people and raided the non-profit URI Foundation’s scholarship dollars to fund the trip.

The former staffer to Senator Jack Reed is widely respected. Look for news about Bucci in the near future. Too talented to not make a leap soon. 

View Larger +
Prev Next

Seasoned Pro

Chris Hunter - The strategy wunderkind has morphed into a well-established operative in his own right in veteran lobbyist Frank McMahon’s public affairs shop, Advocacy Solutions.   

The long-time government and public relations manager for the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance, Hunter is equally adept at the State House, having snagged emerging industry client Lyft and engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that comes with lobbying for the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools. 

Election seasons in particular are where Hunter’s know-how comes in handy, having managed a number of successful bond referendum in the state. Hunter is a constant presence networking around town, whether it’s hobnobbing with the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations or serving on host committees for key candidates - he’s the combination of both “who you know” and “what you know."

View Larger +
Prev Next


Nick Hemond - None may be more unabashedly and relentlessly ambitious than Hemond, who landed as an associate at powerhouse DarrowEverett in 2014. 

The President of the Providence School Board lobbies at City Hall for high-profile real estate clients including Buff Chace and High Rock Management (i.e. the ownership of the Superman Building) and at the State House for labor interests (RI FOP, RI Carpenters Local Union 94), Big Health (the Hospital Association of Rhode Island) and rounding it out with such interests as AAA, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and infrastructure firm AECOM.

If that doesn’t sound like a full load, toss in a slew of crisis communications clients in the way of bars and clubs in varying degrees of trouble (read: stabbings, shootings) before the Providence Board of Licenses. Having so many fingers in so many pies (and some of which could appear somewhat conflicting) has raised eyebrows, but in the meantime if Hemond is winning, the checks keep coming. 

View Larger +
Prev Next

Veteran Professional

Leo Skenyon - The seasoned political operative is the man behind the man. Serving as Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Skenyon helped navigate a more than treacherous legislative session which saw Finance Chair Representative Ray Gallison resign, Representative John Carnevale found ineligible to run at his purported address in Providence, and a slew of financial and ethics issues for a number of Democrats. 

The Speaker however emerged from the session having tackled the thorny issue of community service grants, and what had seemed up until this year a nearly impossible task, putting ethics reform — and oversight of the Assembly by the Ethics Commission — before voters this November.

Skenyon has weathered many a political season before, having been the former Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, and then a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell.  Now, his boss faces both a Republican and Independent challenger in the general election in November.  

View Larger +
Prev Next

Deep Pockets

Joe Shekarchi - The Chair of the House Labor Committee is running unopposed this year in District 23 in Warwick, marking just the third election season for the powerful politician-lawyer, who first won in 2012.

Given his fundraising prowess, however, one would think that Shekarchi accrued his war chest over a longer tenure, with over $528,000 cash on hand as of the second quarter of 2016, making him far and away the most flush General Assembly member (by way of comparison, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello reported just over $365,000 cash on hand for the same period; Governor Gina Raimondo had $1.4 million.)

It was managing money that helped establish him on the map as a seasoned statewide political operative — he was the campaign manager for statewide operations for Raimondo when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010.  With a number of successes in business and on the Hill, keep an eye on Shekarchi's future plans. 


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.


Sign Up for the Daily Eblast

I want to follow on Twitter

I want to Like on Facebook

Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox