Emails Show That When the New York Times Calls, Raimondo’s Office Responds, Quickly
Saturday, February 09, 2019
Governor Gina Raimondo has been criticized by Rhode Island press for the administration's lack of transparency and accessibility, but emails secured by GoLocalProv.com through an Access to Public Records Act request show a very different response by Raimondo’s office when the New York Times reaches out.
Raimondo has often received positive press coverage from the national media — the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. The Boston Globe endorsed Raimondo's reelection.
Recently, Raimondo received a glowing story in the New York Times written by the paper’s star opinion writer, Frank Bruni, who fawned over Raimondo. The Bruni column began, “I did it. I found a significantly accomplished, defensibly qualified Democratic officeholder who isn’t flirting with — and hasn’t fantasized about — a presidential run in 2020. I had to take the train to Rhode Island, where we talked over pizza and eggplant parmigiana. We drank wine, too. It helps these days.”
Bruni Suggests Different Language
In an exchange between Raimondo’s deputy press spokesperson Jennifer Bogdan and Bruni, she sent him via email a description of one of Raimondo’s budget provisions, “The proposal requires large, for-profit employers to pay an assessment that offsets some of the Medicaid costs incurred by the State for their employees who are in Medicaid because they don’t have access to employer-paid health insurance.”
Bruni emailed back to Bogdan, “‘Assessment’ and ‘assessed’ aren’t going to fly with my copy desk—and rightly. Do you all more commonly think of this as a ‘tax’ or a ‘fine’?”
Bruni’s column read as he proposed, “Along those lines, she recently proposed that companies doing business in Rhode Island be taxed up to $1,500 annually for every employee who is enrolled in Medicaid because he or she can’t get health insurance through a company-sponsored plan…”
Equally, it was the New York Times photo desk that dictated Raimondo’s photo.
The emails that cover three-months -- this past November through January -- cover 55 pages and include a number of efforts by Raimondo staffers. In most cases, Raimondo’s office responded to emails in minutes and proactively sent materials and powerpoint presentations that were not requested by the New York Times.
In contrast, Rhode Island's media has often received a very different response from the Raimondo administration. Five press and open government organizations in 2015, including ACCESS/RI, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Press Association, New England First Amendment Coalition, and League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, sent sharply worded letter to Raimondo asking her to issue an executive order which calls on state agencies to "adopt a strong presumption in favor of disclosure in addressing public information requests."
The groups were concerned about a lack of transparency since Raimondo's administration took over in January.
The coalition cited three examples, called the handling of them "questionable" and indicative of a "disinterest in promoting the public's right to know."
“From our perspective, none of [these responses] occupies a ‘shade of gray’ in interpreting APRA. Rather, precisely because they are so clear-cut, they warrant decisive action on your part in order to address the lackadaisical interest in a strong APRA that the responses embody,” the groups said in the letter.
In 2016, GoLocalProv.com's attorney Tom Dickinson filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and State Police Colonel Kevin Barry for the release of the State Police interviews and notes relating to the 38 Studios investigation.
"Access to the records sought in the GoLocalProv APRA request is vital in order to examine and expose to public view the causes of these admittedly bad decisions. On October 14, 2016, Governor Raimondo issued a statement indicating a desire for the release of documents and materials from the 38 Studios investigation," stated GoLocal.
After numerous court hearings, Raimondo released the 38 Studios documents in the spring of 2017 that were sought by GoLocal.