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ProJo (hearts) Raimondo

May 30, 2012

Every newspaper has sacred cows. The Providence Journal’s latest is State Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The mordant newsroom joke is that Raimondo is so sacred that she `moos’. Raimondo is a favorite of publisher Howard Sutton; the two served together on the board of Crossroads, which does much good work in our community to help the homeless get back on their feet.

The ProJo’s crush on Raimondo goes back to her election and accelerated during her push to trim pension benefits for state employees during last year’s special pension session of the General Assembly. At the same time The ProJo has given Raimondo, a rookie politician who also happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, puffy coverage, the paper has  hammered away at Gov. Lincoln Chafee. (The ProJo endorsed Democrat Frank Caprio for governor in 2010).

Every week brings more ProJo cotton candy coverage and editorial genuflecting for Raimondo. Compared to other pols, Raimondo is treated as if she walks across Narragansett Bay .

The last two days of the ProJo are Exhibits A and B. On Tuesday, the lead editorial on the 38 Studios fiasco skewered Chafee for his dealings with Raimondo. “For starters, Governor Chafee should stop his games of cat-and-mouse with Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat whom he seems to see as a potential political foe.’’

Right next to that editorial is a guest op-ed from, surprise, surprise, Gina Raimondo, urging support for her campaign to stop abusive lending practices, including payday loans.

And today’s ProJo has a huge color photo leading the Rhode Island page that depicts the treasurer tossing out the ceremonial first pitch at last night’s Pawtucket Red Sawx game between the PawSox and the Norfolk Tides. Raimondo’s opinion on 38 Studios has leaked into news coverage, even though she has nothing to do with the issue and doesn’t have much to add. (The same article last week also curiously quoted Michael McMahon, a former EDC chief who had nothing to do with 38 Studios).When Raimondo went to lobby the Warwick City Council on the Green Airport expansion recently, it was front page news. When Chafee did the same a week before Raimondo, the story was run, as the crusty old editors used to bark, deep into the paper, below the truss ads.

Governor Chafee invited all of the state general officeholders to a private briefing last Thursday on the 38 Studios mess. All of them either went personally or sent top staffers – except Raimondo.  (Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and Jennifer Wood, her chief of state, both attended).

Chafee earlier tried to set up a separate meeting with the treasurer, with the proviso that it be private since the issue was sensitive. According to Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger the meeting was cancelled only after someone from Raimondo’s office informed the media and a scrum of reporters appeared outside the governor’s 2nd floor State House office.

“She was scheduled to have a briefing and the whole press corps showed up outside the governor’s office,’’ says Hunsinger. “He has been open to her. But there isn’t a need for political grandstanding on this issue.’’

We have a call into Joy Fox, Raimondo spokeswoman, to get the treasurer’s side of this dust-up. But we doubt Fox tipped off the media; she is too professional for that.

Chafee’s people obviously believed the governor was being set up, so they postponed the briefing. And then Raimondo didn’t attend the briefing the next day that was called for the entire group of state general officeholders. And she didn’t send a surrogate, according to Hunsinger.

While Raimondo didn’t get the inside story of what happened at 38 Studios, she went on talk radio (Dan Yorke) to cast doubt on the Chafee Administration’s oversight of  Curt Schilling’s company. She also acknowledged that she really didn’t know much about entire issue.

Raimondo is smart and ambitious and she probably will win higher office someday. She did very good work on the state employee pension overhaul. And for a rookie politician, she has a natural feel for the arena, a transition that not every successful business executive can slide into. Raimondo is full of promise if  she decides to stick with politics. But humility sometimes goes further than hubris in politics. (See Taveras, Angel).

Chafee may well be a one-term governor. But he isn’t up for election until November 2014. Can’t we get through the 2012 election cycle before we start the 2014 sweepstakes?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. rhodeguy permalink
    May 30, 2012 9:49 pm

    This reads as defensive navel-gazing. Let me guess, MacKay thinks the Governor is competent? Is commentary on blow-by-blow coverage of political jockeying in an inept, over-the-hill newspaper really important?

    Perhaps Mr. MacKay should focus on the governor’s absence of strategy for RI, or hammer away at the excessive cost that RI bears for our 38 towns, or evaluate the pros and cons of annexation by Massachusetts.

    Rhode Island has real problems to address; one of them is Governor Holiday Tree.

    • Mister Guy permalink
      June 1, 2012 3:49 am

      Get a grip man. RI is NOT going to be annexed by MA, and the previous Governor called it a “Holiday Tree” as well.

    • Joseph Ferreira permalink
      June 1, 2012 12:08 pm

      Thank you, Mr. Bakst, for trying to uphold a higher standard both for news coverage and blog commentary. It’s clear from rhodeguy’s followup comments that he doesn’t get it. The comments lack specifics, in-depth analysis of the problems and any reasonable suggestions for solutions to those problems. As with too much of what passes for political discourse, rhodeguy simply takes a swipe at you and rides his little hobby-horse of an issue.

      Lincoln Chafee lacks strategy, rhodeguy? Hmm, how do you define strategy? What evidence can you present that specifies your accusations? How does dealing with an ever-expanding list of crises spawned prior to his administration factor into your accusations, which as yet are unsubstantiated? How is you approach to discussing and debating political concerns, including the effect of biased media coverage, any different than the approach taken by Mr. MacKay, Mr. Donnis, et. al.?

      Nothing gets solved by simply telling anyone who listens/reads “They’re wrong.” Why not offer up some details and some recommendations, backed by evidence/facts? If you can’t or won’t do that, you perpetuate the problem you yourself have identified rather than trying to find solutions.

  2. M. Charles Bakst permalink
    May 30, 2012 11:24 pm

    I thought MacKay raised some interesting points. But regardless of whether he was right or wrong, at least he signed his name, as he does in all his commentaries in print or on the air. Unlike, say, “rhodeguy,” who prefers to take cowardly potshots at people from behind the mask of anonymity. As for the childish reference to “Governor Holiday Tree” – again, Lincoln Chafee had the courage to put his name on the ballot. I don’t pretend to have such courage, but I am willing to go on record with my views about religious observances at the State House. They are inappropriate, and we don’t need Christmas trees there – or menorahs. As I have often said, people with religion in their hearts don’t need to go into the public square and wear it on their sleeves. Finally, I have the greatest respect for Rhode Island Public Radio, but I can’t condone this practice of publishing hit and run anonymous comments from readers or listeners. I wish you would stop. I also have complained about similar practices at such outlets as the Providence Journal web site, the New York Times Magazine, East Side Monthly, and, most sadly, the Columbia Journalism Review. It is a tough slog, but I am not giving up. M. Charles Bakst, Providence

    • rhodeguy permalink
      May 30, 2012 11:50 pm

      Surely the brave and insightful former journalist Mr. Bakst distinguishes between reality and words. Calling a Christmas Tree a holiday tree is sophistic and beneath importance – and the statehouse visitor still sees whatever symbol they prefer.

      The point was that the governor is someone’s sacred cow and those people are willing to overlook his foolishness, perhaps MacKay should redirect his insight to issues more important than the biases of a mediocre, provincial newspaper’s coddled editorial staff and management.

      ProJo readership is declining so fast that it wont matter soon anyway.

  3. Disgruntled Rhode islander permalink
    May 31, 2012 1:57 am

    Thank you, Scott MacKay. The only media people who give the Treasurer fair scrutiny are you, Ian Donnis, Ted Nesi and Tim While. No politician should ever be above that. Lack of appropriate scrutiny and lack of transparency (e.g., Engage RI Super Pac) are two main reasons why RI repeatedly gets into problems, such as Studio 38 and the URI Sports Institute. “Cotton candy coverage ” doesn’t help the citizenry make informed choices during elections. There are some great reporters at ProJo but some of the coverage looks like it belongs in the RHODE ISLAND Magazine.

    Stay with it. Your site and Ted Nesi’s are my first reads.

  4. tim1999 permalink
    May 31, 2012 3:39 am

    Hey Scotso, I missed your angry bird rants when the very same ProJo has an eight year news blackout on Providence City Hall and David Cicilline. Their blatant ass kissing of and protection racket for Cicilline didn’t bother you at all.
    Scotso you’re a hypocrite of epic porportion. A genuine fraud.
    BTW Scotso, since you are a longtime member of the good old boy network within the Democratic party perhaps it’s Ms. Raimondo’s gender along with her intellect that you find so threatening? Uh huh!

    Well well well Barrington’s not so favorite limosine liberal Chuckie Bakst has taken his eye off the buffet table long enough to come here and comment.
    Insightful as always Chuckster. 😉

  5. May 31, 2012 3:50 pm

    Once again Tim I second Charile’s view. Why not have the courage of your convictions and sign your real name?

  6. Mister Guy permalink
    June 1, 2012 3:47 am

    “‘For starters, Governor Chafee should stop his games of cat-and-mouse with Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat whom he seems to see as a potential political foe.'”

    It takes two to tango people. How about if Mrs. Raimondo stops making press releases as soon as her office learns that she might get a briefing on the 38 Studios matter? If you can’t see the obvious political grandstanding on the part of Mrs. Raimondo recently, you’re blind as a bat, period.

    “Gina Raimondo, urging support for her campaign to stop abusive lending practices, including payday loans.”

    I agree completely with clamping down on payday loans, especially as they relate to our members of the military, who have been blatantly fleeced by that industry for way too long. The terms of those kind of loans are outrageous.

    “According to Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger the meeting was cancelled only after someone from Raimondo’s office informed the media and a scrum of reporters appeared outside the governor’s 2nd floor State House office.”


    “She also acknowledged that she really didn’t know much about entire issue”

    …except that Chafee was to blame for it somehow…lol…

    “She did very good work on the state employee pension overhaul.”

    We’ll see how “good” her work seems when much of that pension “reform” package is overturned in the courts.

  7. leftyrite permalink
    June 2, 2012 12:23 am

    Gina is ushering in a kind of knowing theft, in the name of ideology, that will make her quite properly reviled and hated sooner rather than later.

    We hear every day the arcane language of the so-called financial industry; hedge funds, overnight paper, sythetic collateralized debt obligations, and all the rest. The brighter people who pore over this stuff realize that essentially what we’re talking about is the inventing of new ways of spinning straw into gold.

    Gina, or her scripted successor, will never leave the public pension funds alone.

    They’ll be used with the same ethical precision and the same attention to accountable detail that we have already seen over and over again, 38 Schilling being the latest shilling, or drubbing, we’ve taken.

    Not the way she operates? Please. If they had Madoffed this correctly for three months, we would have seen her hologram on a float in the Bristol parade.

    I despise her smugness. There’s nothing worse than educated fool, except perhaps an educated skimmer and grifter.

    She, and thousands like her, will plunder us until we fight back or humiliate us and harrass us to the point where we hate ourselves. (See Afghanistan.)

    There’s no justice in sight, but plenty of police and surveillance.

    That’s what injustice breeds.


  1. RI Progress Report: Legislative Leadership and 38 Studios
  2. AS Daily News Roundup: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | Advocacy Solutions

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