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Moore: Is Siedle Smooth Enough To Get Elected?

Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Ted Siedle

At first blush, Ted Siedle looks like a perfect candidate to become Rhode Island’s next Attorney General.

Last week, GoLocal broke the story that Siedle, the Forbes Columnist and former SEC lawyer, was considering a run for RI Attorney General last week, and I immediately thought it was quite an interesting proposition.

He’s smart, articulate, understands the issues, and given his experience working for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) understands the nature of enforcement actions against individuals and entities.

When he’s conducted media interviews, he’s always acquitted himself quite well. He was a rather frequent guest on the talk radio show of the late Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci.

Siedle is also in line to gain the biggest reward in SEC history, roughly $50 million for his role in uncovering and reporting fraudulent activities at JP Morgan, which led to roughly $300 million in regulatory fines against the company. Therefore, he should have no problem financing his campaign for the open Rhode Island Attorney General’s seat. (Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is term-limited.)

Siedle is also well-known in Rhode Island for leading the charge against former Rhode Island General Treasurer, (now Governor), Gina Raimondo’s pension fund investment strategy. He was the first person in Rhode Island to point out that hedge funds are not only costlier, but also riskier investments that do little more than put the retirement security of pensioners at stake--not to mention expose the taxpayers to greater liabilities.

The Right Stuff

The an is also a master investigator. He has conducted numerous investigations into the Rhode Island pension system. His investigations showed how Raimondo’s pension reform, when all was said and done, ended up enriching Wall Street hedge fund managers at the expense of Rhode Island taxpayers. Imagine what malfeasance Siedle could uncover as the next Attorney General.

Undoubtedly, Siedle will be open to criticism that he’s a carpetbagger. And by definition, it’s true. He is currently not a Rhode Island resident.

But what’s the big deal? If a business can attract the best job candidate, does it matter to the business of the person is currently living elsewhere? Of course not! In fact, smart businesses pay the moving expenses of their top executives.

Instead, Rhode Islanders should be thrilled that Siedle would be willing to take his time and energy to run for this office.

The real question for Siedle is just that--does he have the energy and dedication to run for high office in Rhode Island.

A Place Like No Other

Running for office in Rhode Island is like running nowhere else. Nowhere else in America is there a place so small, yet with so much interest in politics. Here we have multiple television stations, a massive daily newspaper (still), a bunch of other, smaller newspapers, several minor news blogs, and one major news blog. There’s a talk radio station that covers politics from 6 am until 9 pm. And they’re all competing with one another.

The focus is unbelievable.

In a place like, say, Kansas perhaps, you could simply raise money, buy television commercials, conduct a few media interviews, and attend a state fair. That very well might be enough to win the election.

Not here. Here, even statewide politicians are expected to attend dinner parties and cookouts of regular Rhode Islanders. Cianci perfected this art.

It’s a task that sounds easier than it is.

Time will tell if Siedle has the desire and the ability to live up to this challenge.

Russell J. Moore has worked on both sides ot the desk in Rhode Island media, both for newspapers and on political campaigns. Send him email at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @russmoore713.

 

Related Slideshow: Timeline - Rhode Island Pension Reform

GoLocalProv breaks down the sequence of events that have played out during Rhode Island's State Employee Pension Fund reform. 

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2005-2010

In the five years before Raimondo was elected, pension changes included a decrease in established retirement age from 65 to 62, increased eligibility to retire, and modified COLA adjustments.
 
Read the Senate Fiscal Office's Brief here.
 
(Photo: 401(k) 2013, Flickr)
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January 2009

Governor Don Carcieri makes pension reform a top priority in his emergency budget plan. His three-point plan included:

1. An established minimum retirment age of 59 for all state and municipal employees.

2. Elimination of cost-of-living increases.

3. Conversion of new hires into a 401(k) style plan.

 

See WPRI's coverage of Carcieri's proposal here.

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2009

Rhode Island increased mandatory employee contributions for new and current employees. New Mexico was the only other state to mandate current employees to increase their contributions. 

 

Read the NCSL report here

(Photo: FutUndBeidl, Flickr)

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2010

Rhode Island's state administered public employee pension system only held 48% of the assets to cover future payments to its emplyees.

"This system as designed today is fundamentally unsustainable, and it is in your best interest to fix it" - Gina Raimondo

 

Check out Wall Street Journal's coverage here.

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November 2010

Gina Raimondo defeats opponent Kernan King in the election for General Treasurer of Rhode Island using her platform to reform the structure of Rhode Island's public employee pension system. She received 201,625 votes, more than any other politician on the 2010 Rhode Island ballot. 

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April 2011

Raimondo leads effort to reduce the state’s assumed rate of return on pension investments from 8.25 to 7.5%.

Her proposal includes plans to suspend the Cost of Living Adjustment (which allows for raises corresponding with rates of inflation for retirees), changing the retirement age to match Social Security ages, and adding a defined contribution plan.

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May 2011

Raimondo releases “Truth in Numbers”, a report detailing the pension crisis and offering possible solutions. She continues to work to raise public support for her proposal.

"Decades of ignoring actuarial assumptions led to lower taxpayer & employee contributions being made into the system." - Gina Raimondo (Truth in Numbers)

 

Read GoLocalProv's analysis of the report here.

Read the Truth in Numbers report here

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October 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo present their pension reform legislation proposal before a joint session of the General Assembly.

“Our fundamental goal throughout this process has been to provide retirement security through reforms that are fair to the three main interested parties: retirees, current employees and the taxpayer…I join the General Treasurer in urging the General Assembly to take decisive action and adopt these reforms.”- Gov. Lincoln Chafee

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October 2011

Head of Rhode Island firefighters’ union accuses Raimondo of “cooking the books” to create a pension problem where one did not exist. Paul Valletta Jr. states that Raimondo raised Rhode Islanders’ assumed mortality rate to increase liability to the state, using data from 1994 instead of updated information from 2008, and lowered the anticipated rate of return on state investments.

“You’re going after the retirees! In this economic time, how could you possibly take a pension away?” Paul Valletta Jr (Head of RI Firefighters' Union)

Read more from the firefighters' battle with Raimondo here.

Check out the New York Times' take on RI's  pension crisis here.

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November 17, 2011

The Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (RIRSA) is enacted by the General Assembly with bipartisan support in both chambers. RIRSA’s passing is slated to reduce the unfunded liability of RI’s pension system and increase its funding status by $3 billion and 60% respectively, level contributions to the pension system by taxpayers, save municipalities $100 million through lessened contributions to teacher and MERS pension systems, and lower the cost of borrowing.

 

Read more from GoLocalProv here.

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November 18, 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee signs RIRSA into law. According to a December 2011 Brown University poll, 60% of Rhode Island residents support the reform. Following its enactment, Raimondo holds regional sessions to educate public employees on the effects of the legislation on their retirement benefits.

 

Read about how Rhode Islanders react to RIRSA here.

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January 2012

Raimondo hosts local workshops to explain the pension reforms across Rhode Island. She also receives national attention for her contributions to the state’s pension reforms.  The reforms are given praise and many believe Rhode Island will serve as a template for other States’ future pension reforms.

 

Read about the pension workshop here.

Read Raimondo's feature in Institutional Investor here

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March - April 2012

Raimondo opposes Governor Chafee’s proposal to cut pension-funded deposits. She continued to provide workshops on the pension reforms.

“The present law is sound fiscal policy and should remain unchanged.” -George Nee (Rhode Island AFL-CIO President)
 
 
See WPRI's coverage of Chafee's attempt to cut pension fund deposits here.
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December 5, 2012

Raimondo publicly opposes Governor Chafee’s meetings with union leaders in an effort to avoid judicial rulings on the pension reform package.  In response, Chafee issues a statement supporting the negotiations.

 

Read more about Raimondo's opposition here.

Read about Chafee's statement http://www.golocalprov.com/news/new-chafee-issues-statement-supporting-pension-negotiations/">here

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March 2013

Led by the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters, unions protest the 2011 pension reform outside of the Omni Providence where Governor Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo conduct a national conference of bond investors.

 

Read about Raimondo's discussion of distressed municipalities here

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April 2013

The pension plan comes under increased scrutiny as a result of the involvement of hedge funds and private equity firms. Reports show that $200 million of the state pension fund was lost in 2012.

"In short, impressive educational credentials and limited knowledge of investment industry realities made Raimondo ideally suited to champion private equity’s public pension money grab." - Ted Seidle (Forbes)

 

Read GoLocalProv's coverage of the State Pension Fund's losses here

Read Ted Seidle's criticism of Raimondo in Forbes.

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June 2013

Reports show that the State’s retirement system increased in 2013 by $20 million despite the reforms being put into effect the previous year.

 

Read GoLocalProv's investigation into the rising pension costs here.

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September 2013

Matt Taibbi publishes an article in Rolling Stone detailing Raimondo’s use of hedge funds as a questionably ethical tool to aid with pension reform. 

Read Taibbi's article in Rolling Stone.

Read GoLocalProv's response to Taibbi here.

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October 2013

As Raimondo eyes the role of Governor of Rhode Island in 2014, more behind-the-curtain information about the 2011 pension reform comes to light.

 

Read more from GoLocalProv about the players in the pension battle here.

 
 

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