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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, March 21, 2014


HOT: Representative Donna Walsh

Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Gina Raimondo- "I do not accept that Rhode Island has to continue to deal with pothole-filled roads, outdated bridges, energy-inefficient buildings and schools ill-equipped to prepare our kids for the jobs of the 21st century. Other states are moving forward and it is time we do too," State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo recently announced. Noteworthy is Raimondo's call for a School Building Authority , much needed to help restore and create high quality school buildings across the state.

Brett Smiley - "...with little left to cut and nothing left to tax, we must work hard to forge the kind of partnerships with private and non-profit sectors that bring in more federal, state, corporate and private foundation grants into our city. That will be job one for the Office of Strategic Partnerships," Mayoral candidate Brett Smiley promised in his latest policy proposal for a new city office to coordinate and encourage public-private partnerships. As GoLocal reported, by consolidating fundraising into a single city office, "we can more efficiently and effectively bring in new funds to our city."

Representative Donna Walsh - Supported by a bipartisan team of Larry Valencia, Michael Marcello, Michael Chippendale, and Frank Ferri, Walsh is sponsoring a common sense reform to how Rhode Island nominates judges. Their legislation - Bill H7864 - would bar elected officials and lobbyists, among other politically connected individuals, from serving on the Judicial Nominating Commission, the group which identifies judicial candidates. Clear and common sense, but will this be voted out of committee, Mr. Speaker?

Representative Greg Amore - Amore's bill, co-sponsored by Representatives Kazarian, Blazejewksi, Valencia, and Finn, would prevent anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense from owning a gun. Amore's proposal is supported by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.

#2 - As GoLocal reported, Livability.com found Downcity Providence to be the second best downtown in the United States! As Carl Freese says, "We have one of the best downtowns in the country. According to the magazine pollsters, we're pretty, we're sexy, we're hip, we're artsy, we're strange, we have very good restaurants, we have excellent beer, the best burgers, and outstanding pizza. Providence, Rhode Island, folks!"

Liam McClennon/Greencore USA - “In searching for the right location, we wanted to find a place where we could build quickly, have easy access to the major cities on the East Coast, and be in a place where we could grow in the future. Quonset met all those criteria perfectly – it is a world-class facility,” said Liam McClennon, CEO at Greencore USA. Greencore, a convenience food company based in Ireland, will bring at least 390 jobs to the Ocean State with a new facility at Quonset Business Park.

Resources for Human Development- RI (RHD-RI) - Based in Pawtucket, RHD-RI has provided arts-based therapy to adults with development disabilities since 2004. Come celebrate this Friday, from 5-8pm, as RHD-RI celebrates the grand opening of their new space at 24 Commerce St, Pawtucket. The team at RHD "firmly believe in providing the best services possible to the people we support in an environment that values personal freedom and the responsibility that comes with it."

NOT: Charlie Fogarty/Department of Labor and Training


Jamie Dimon/JP Morgan Chase - GoLocal's Stephen Beale found JP Morgan Chase, the "New York-based bank, with no branch locations in Rhode Island, has saddled recipients of unemployment benefits with hidden credit card-style fees as much as five times what state officials say they should be." Tom Sgouros told Go Local, "Debit cards exist for the fee income they generate. That’s the point. A prepaid debit card has no bank account behind it, so fee income is all the bank gets. Do you think they do this for free?”

Charlie Fogarty/Department of Labor and Training- James Safford, who dealt with the JP Morgan surcharges and recently stopped filing for unemployment, told Go Local of a recent call he received from the state unemployment office, recounting "...my benefits were canceled three weeks ago, so why are you calling me?’ “And they were like, ‘Well, because your name just came up on my queue to give you a call back.’ That’s how far behind they are. These benefits had been canceled for three weeks and they were still calling me back.”

AH Belo - "This is a tale of two newspapers. One is full of energy, experimentation, and hope. That one is in Boston. The other is in limbo, rudderless and adrift. That one is in Providence...This is the difference news-ownership makes – and especially, it should be emphasized, local ownership, " GoLocal Editor-at-Large Dean Starkman argued in a recent piece comparing the Boston Globe and Providence Journal. As he writes, "Belo has been a singularly ineffective owner, ... managing to underperform the rest of the newspaper industry by a wide margin and while showering its executives with undeserved bonuses."

Johanna Harris/Board of Licenses - Curious that even with a new chairperson, the Providence Board of Licenses is still inconsistent with posting its meeting agendas on the city's open portal website. The board meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 1:00 pm in Room 112. Among several other people, State Senator Juan Pichardo serves on the board.

Poverty Rising - According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston , "New England’s poverty rate increased from 9.1% in 1999 to 10.5% in 2011, mirroring a nationwide increase during the Great Recession. During the same time period, the rural poverty rate in New England rose from 10.5% to 12.6% in 2011. It is important to note that Massachusetts’ more-buoyant economy masks a more concerning picture for the rest of the region."


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Gina Raimondo Has to Answer When Running for Governor

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10. Money

Can she explain the amount of out of state money?

Most of the candidates for Governor need to answer the question, can they raise enough to be competitive? That is not a problem for Raimondo. She has proven to be the most skilled fundraiser, but her issue is justifying that the vast majority of the money is coming from out-of-state.

Raimondo will face a number of questions regarding who is really behind her campaign - the amount of out-of-state dollars is just one of the questions.

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9. Pension Reform

Did she only reform certain pensions?

Raimondo rose to celebrity status because of her leadership on pension reform. Her efforts helped to stabilize the pension system, but the reform was hardly democratic.

Teachers took the vast majority of the hit, while major groups of pensioners escaped reform including the judges, state police and disability pensioners. Raimondo has some explaining to do.

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8. Lack of Transparency

If she lacks transparency as Treasurer, what will it be like as Governor?

From her deepest critics to the media and even members of the retirement board, many have questioned her and her office's willingness to share information and provide the public insights into her management of the investment commission and the performance of the fund under her leadership.

Data which historically was easily accessed by the public and media is now locked behind the Raimondo wall. Often this raises serious questions and forces the media to seek the simplest information via FOIA requests.

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7. Wall Street

Why is Wall Street spending so much money supporting Raimondo?

Raimondo is the queen of fundraising and so much of it derives from the major players on Wall Street.

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6. Performance

Has Raimondo managed the pension fund competently?

The most important job of the General Treasurer might be the management of the state's retirement fund. The blockbuster investigative piece by Stephen Beale unveiled that the pension system under Raimondo lost $200 million

While she may be able to blitz the airwaves with positive messages about her bio and her leadership in pension reform, her Democratic primary competitors and/or her GOP opponent in the General Election may be able to destroy her credibility by playing up her "mismanagement of the pension system."

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5. Hedge Funds

Will Raimondo pay the price for shifting so much of the assets into Hedge Funds?

For the past six months, Raimondo has been under constant critique for shifting more than 20% of the State's retirement dollars into unregulated Hedge Funds. The critics has included forensic auditor/Forbes contributor Ted Siedle, Rolling Stones magazine's star reporter Matt Taibbi, former General Treasurer and candidate again, Frank Caprio, as well as many of the public unions. The combination of where she gets her campaign dollars, coupled with the shift in investment strategy and the under performance of the fund may all build into a snowball effect.

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4. Connect to RIers

Educated at Yale and Harvard, a Rhode Scholar and a millionaire, can she connect to the average RIer?

Raimondo is a born and bred Rhode Islander, but for her adult life she has been educated at the best colleges in the world and living a professional life aligned with many of America's super rich associated with Wall Street. In her announcement she mentioned a number of times she was a mother, but did not mention that her husband is a partner at Mckinsey - and according to Forbes magazine probably takes home $2 million or so per year.

Raimondo talks a lot about her father losing his job when she was a child, but she has come a long way since then. She could come across as the ultimate RI success story or be perceived as an out of touch venture capitalist.

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3. Siedle and Taibbi

Neither Ted Siedle or Matt Taibbi are going away - can she deflect their questions and charges?

In the past two months, both forensic auditor/Forbes columnist Ted Siedle and Rolling Stone's star reporter Matt Taibbi have raised serious issues about Raimondo's motivation and judgment.

As Taibbi wrote, "The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926#ixzz2o2bLhqKW

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2. Is she a Democrat?

Will Taveras and Pell paint her to be too conservative?

Raimondo is simply hated by the teachers unions and others - big blocks of voters in the Democratic primary. Both Clay Pell and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras will tack to the left and may compete for the same voters allowing her to sneak through to the general. However, progressives and unions may decide to pick Pell over Taveras (who is struggling to raise money and whose track record in Providence may come under fire) and then Pell can take the left leaning primary.

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1. SEC Investigation

Can Raimondo survive an SEC investigation?

Both Siedle and a state senator have written to the SEC calling for an investigation into the investment practices of Raimondo. A federal investigation would be at a minimum a black eye to the General Treasurer and an enforcement action might end a credible campaign. Timing may prove to be everything.


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