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Campaign snapshot: High gas prices + Cicilline’s politics of empathy

April 10, 2012

Congressman David Cicilline used a meeting at the Blackstone Valley Commuity Action Program in Pawtucket today to empathize with two handfuls of constituents about the bite of high gas prices.

Nine women associated with the program talked about how $4 a gallon gas is forcing them to make tough choices. One said that girlfriends don’t go out without asking who has gas money. Cicilline blamed speculation in financial markets for driving up the cost, and he called for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to relieve price pressure at the pump.

If nothing else, the ethnically diverse women and the Democratic congressman from the East Side vented shared frustration about energy prices and Rhode Island’s still-bruising economy.

Cicilline nodded while listening to the women, and they mostly nodded back when he spoke. Criticism about Cicilline’s departure from City Hall seemed to reside in a far-away universe.

While the audience was small, Cicilline’s CD1 re-election fight could turn on striking an empathetic bond with enough voters across the district, and raising the focus on national issues.  (The media was there, too: WPRO, ABC6, the Times of Pawtucket; a Spanish-language paper, and yours truly.)

Later, I asked Cicilline if events like this one were meant to change the conversation from the rap that he was less than forthcoming about Providence’s emerging fiscal nightmare before leaving City Hall. He said: No (although he’s now expressing regret for saying the city was in “excellent financial condition.”)

I think this is about sharing with constituents the work that I’m doing on this point, and at the same time  to hear directly from them about  what the impact of rising gas prices is. It’s a real issue for Rhode Island families. There are things we can do about it . I’ve co-sponsored legislation that can directly address this issue. We’re not powerless to do nothing about it. We’ve got to end the excessive speculation on Wall Street.

This is exactly what we saw in the housing market, and it’s the Wild, Wild West, where lots of people are buying oil futures that have no intention of ever taking delivery of it, that are helping to drive up prices that are hurting Rhode Island families. We can fix it and we should, and it’s really about sharing with constituents the work that I’m doing and then listening to them carefully about the impact its having on their own lives.

In a news release, Cicilline’s office offered this info:

Last month Cicilline joined with 70 members of Congress, including Senators Reed and Whitehouse, in urging the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to act immediately to eliminate excessive oil speculation. He is also urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, through the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, to use every tool at their disposal to investigate the effects of speculation and ensure the proper functioning of oil and gas markets. 

Elsewhere, Republican candidate Brendan Doherty spoke to a group of eighth-graders today. Doherty spokesman Rob Coupe says releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve isn’t a long-term solution to high gas prices.

Also: Cicilline raised about $316,000 in the first quarter of 2012, bringing his war chest to more than $700,000. Doherty comparable estimates are $150,000 for the quarter and $560,000+ in his war chest.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mister Guy permalink
    April 11, 2012 10:53 pm

    “he called for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to relieve price pressure at the pump”

    …which will do exactly nothing to the fact that gas prices always go up at this time of year…with people driving more & the coming of more expensive, summer-blend gasoline.

    At least the people in Cicilline’s audience could actually vote for him…

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