Why the New Shadow Government Is Bad


As I mentioned yesterday afternoon, the fact that Dan Yorke didn’t instantly agree with my concern about the new shadow-government network that, I believe, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is assembling proves that I have to do more work explaining it and persuading people that it’s bad.  In an attempt to simplify the analysis, I thought a diagram might help, and I came up with the following (click for larger version):


So, yeah, that probably doesn’t simplify anything.  But it might help to illustrate a point if you understand that the dashed lines are generally not transparent.  (That is, even if the people involved disclose some information, there’s probably more of which we’re not aware.)

People intuitively understand that we have a right to government transparency.  Many people believe we have a right to know who is funding political activism, so we have context to know why they might be doing what they’re doing.  With reference to the diagram, it does us no good to know that (made-up name) Josephine Smith gave money to Raimondo and a bunch of legislators if we don’t know that she’s somehow affiliated with a nonprofit that received instructions from the RI Foundation after Brookings suggested to the chief innovation officer that they do so and he passed it on to Raimondo, who made a call to the head of the RI Foundation.

We also intuitively understand (at least we used to) that we benefit by having opposition in our society.  The other day, I brought up the robber barons and how they created conditions that sent the masses into the arms of the progressives.  That should be a two way street (or a free-for-all street) that allows people to turn to private industry or organizations for support and influence when the government overreaches.  But what do you do when key players in the private sector are part of an interlocking network with government?

Suppose (made up, again) Rhode Islander Bob Franklin has an idea for a new product or a new way of doing business that doesn’t fit with the government’s central plan for our economy and, indeed, would be disruptive to it.  Obviously, it would also threaten companies that have accepted Commerce Corp. money and invested in the government’s plan.  Under the civic order as it’s been, those companies would have lobbied and made political donations, and it would be at least somewhat clear who’s on what side and why.

But now, the government and the established companies are all “aligned” and “cooperative” and invested in the same objective.  So, the companies spot the problem first, they still give money and instructions to political donors, but behind the scenes they also give recommendations to the CIO (who, remember, technically works for a private nonprofit), who insists to the General Assembly and government agencies that “innovative” and “sustainable” economic development requires laws and regulations that favor the insider companies.

In broader strokes, the government can simply make it more difficult to live and work in the state, so anybody who wants to do so finds it necessary to appeal for some subsidies or special treatment from the state or through quasi-publics or nonprofits.  That’s already been happening, of course, but the network pictured above begins to systematize it in a non-transparent way, and in accordance with a scheme devised by the Brookings Institution and who knows what other organizations or individuals.

That’s why the CIO hiring is so emblematic.  As corrupt as Rhode Island already is, at least enterprising journalists and political opposition can request documents and email to have some chance of connecting dots, following the money, and every other investigative cliché.  Now, at the center of a revolutionary initiative to reimagine our entire state is a guy whom the governor says works for him, who is telling the world that he works for the state government, but who is exempted from every constitutional and legal rule affecting decision-makers of the state.

I don’t think the governor would be trying to poke this hole in the Rhode Island constitution if she didn’t think (probably at somebody else’s guidance) that it will help her to avoid being caught for many more in the coming years.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I couldn’t agree with you more, and I understand the difficulty in explaining it to others. Perhaps if you analogized to the “Military Industrial Complex” which everyone already knows is “bad”. It is in effect a shadow government, controlling huge portions of the budget with gifts to procurement people and other decision makers at the Pentagon and Congress.. Combine this with lucrative retirement jobs for the military (sort of the same way “cooperative” FBI people are paid off with “security” jobs at retirement) and an enormous amount of concealed influence is peddled. My father was a “Merchant of Death” and sometimes the mind boggled. He tried to direct me to a military career in “procurement”. You might also investigate “environmental contracts”, these all seem to be “one company” industries. I have wondered if the regulators do not draw the “window” so only one company can get through the bidding process.