Some folks on social media have noted an op-ed by Mark Ryan in today’s Providence Journal encouraging Rhode Islanders to stop “drowning in negativity” and instead “applaud Gov. Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed” and “encourage them to further achievement.” Ryan proceeds to offer a boosterish list of the trio’s achievements, which looks a lot like what one might expect if he’d asked the politicians’ spokespeople for a short list of what good things they think they’ve done over the past year.
Readers should note that Mr. Ryan has handed out over $10,000 to Rhode Island politicians since spring 2014. $2,000 of that went to Governor Gina Raimondo, half just a month before her election and half the following January. Another $2,000 went to General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, half a week before the election and half this past November. These donations are notable, in part, because as Ted Nesi summarized last September in a post on some of the depositions in the 38 Studios trial, Ryan’s law firm, Moses Afonso Ryan, is “a prominent local law firm that often works on government bond offerings.”
For example, however much the firm received for its work on the bonds related to 38 Studios, it agreed to pay the government $4.4 million. The public could be forgiven for thinking that, for such people, campaign donations aren’t so much expressions of support as investments. The other partners in the firm give generously to select politicians, and they also give to the firm’s associated political action committee (PAC), which then gives more to politicians.
And it’s an intricate scheme, too. Ryan gave former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras over $4,000, and as his official bio states:
He was recommended by Mayor Taveras and appointed by Governor Chafee as a commissioner on the I-195 Commission, Chair of the Search Committee for an Economic Development Director for the City of Providence and Co-Chair of the City of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’ Transition Team.
In short, it’s about as surprising that Mr. Ryan would be a supporter of the politics and brand of economic development of Raimondo & Co. as it is that the Laborer’s union likes the idea of pouring hundreds of millions of dollars immediately into construction projects. The fact that Ryan is former executive vice president and general manager of The Providence Journal only completes the picture of how Rhode Island operates and why it’s in the condition that it’s in.
Insiders profit. You pay. In the absence of a functioning, truly representative democracy, the process is little more than legalized theft.