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Moore: Raimondo’s Propaganda Program?

Monday, September 25, 2017

 

Gina Raimondo

Last week, GoLocalProv reported that Governor Gina Raimondo wants her department directors to plan a series of press conferences that highlight all the great things that are happening across the state government to commemorate her first 1,000 days in office.

"We are asking every Cabinet member to plan at least one event highlighting a specific and tangible accomplishment from these 1,000 days,” wrote her chief spokesman Mike Raia in an email to the administration’s department directors.

With that request, Governor Gina Raimondo is, at best, blurring the line between campaign workers and government workers. The people who work for state government are paid by the taxpayers of the state of Rhode Island.

Their jobs are to respond to requests for information and to present that information as objectively as possible. They’re not supposed to spin that information in such a way to make their boss look good.

We Paid For It

Instead, the Governor's press office is apparently operating as a propaganda department since they’re using government resources for campaign purposes.

Planning press conferences with the sole intent of presenting the Governor is a positive light falls under the purview of campaign workers. The Governor should be spending her massive campaign fund on this initiative. 

It’s impossible to argue that the Governor isn’t using the state resources for political purposes, as Common Cause Executive Director John Marion pointed out to GoLocal.

"Governor Raimondo's effort to highlight her "1000th-day" accomplishments is clearly political,” said Marion.

Propaganda?

Folks will argue that Governor Raimondo is hardly the first politician to use the apparatus of state government to her own benefit. But it’s hard to point to a circumstance where this line has been blurred so brazenly. Furthermore, just because other politicians have done something wrong doesn’t make it right.

Against this backdrop, can anyone really be surprised that the state has grown its spending on public relations officers from $4.3 million in 2015 to $5.5 million in 2017, according to a report in The Providence Journal last week. That’s a 25-percent increase in just two years!

And is it any wonder that the least political branch of government, the judicial branch, has just two public relations specialists working in it? (While it may take a great deal of politics to become a judge, there is infinitely less politics played by that branch of government given how the length of judicial appointments.) Unsurprisingly, the answers to questions to the judicial branch’s spokespeople tend to be the least political or fluffy.

Stop the Spin

Of course, it’s highly idealistic to believe that the state government’s spokespeople should operate like Joe Friday from Dragnet and give us “just the facts”. But in case anyone hasn’t noticed, Rhode Island is a highly cynical place. We could use a heavy dose of idealism around here. It would serve us well.

Of course, we need good public relations officers in state government. But we don’t need them acting like spin doctors who serve their bosses and not the taxpayers. Just give us the facts. And we don’t need dog and pony shows. Let’s not come up with phony reasons to hold press conferences. We deserve better.

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

 

Overtime Costs for Governor Raimondo’s Security Jan 1, 2015 to June 24, 2017

 

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