Skeffington: Hero or Villain?

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Reading this Sunday front page article from the Providence Journal, about consummate Rhode Island insider James Skeffington, one gets the sense of a community-minded figure pulling together beloved public projects:

Friendship, sports, business, government and charity mix together for Skeffington. It’s a recipe that’s served him well through 40-plus years as a corporate lawyer and political adviser.

You won’t find Skeffington’s name on public buildings or laws in Rhode Island, but you’ll see his hand in many high-profile projects.

It could be realigning a Navy base in North Kingstown into a business park, building a convention center and a mall in Providence, attracting a global financial firm to Smithfield, keeping a lottery giant from fleeing to Massachusetts, developing a state airport parking garage or a private retirement home. He’s had a hand in all of these projects.

To bring it back to a Rhode Island cliché, Skeffington doesn’t just know a guy; he’s a guy you wanna know.  Of course, it’s not all friendship and charity.  Scion of a funeral home–operating family, he’s made himself very wealthy fulfilling his role in the Ocean State’s back rooms.  Indeed, the following paragraph could be the pivot point from the pro-government worldview to the government-skeptic worldview:

He joined the Edwards & Angell law firm in Providence after college and made himself an expert bond counsel, later importing to Rhode Island an economic-development tool devised in New York — moral-obligation bonds. Such bonds allow quasi-public agencies to issue debt without voter approval, a provision often criticized by government watchdogs.

The poster child for moral-obligation bonds in Rhode Island is 38 Studios.

It’s an easy principle to forget, as we get caught up in debating one public policy proposal after another, but every time Rhode Island undertakes economic development projects, a small group of people whose names Rhode Islanders don’t know do very well for their personal economies.  Bonds, tax credits, development, and public-private partnerships all require lawyers, brokers, dealers, negotiators, advisers, lobbyists, and on and on.

All they have to do to keep their game going is to keep friends in office and voters falling for one scheme after another.



  • Mike678

    Given the results, more a self-serving villian.

  • Justin Guest

    I’m confused. Do the baggers now want a foreign-born president?

    Justin, Mr. Skeffington is a private citizen interested in investing in his community. Why do you feel the need to attack him? I guess it’s another case of carpetbagging extremists not understanding the landscape in which we operate.

    • Justin Katz

      Looks to me like his biggest achievement was in making himself wealthy by finding a way for government officials to borrow lots of money without the consent of the people who would have to pay the bill. I guess in a twisted, government-obsessed view that’s an “investment.”

  • Black is White

    For the climate change denying baggers…

    …When company representatives are given review and editorial rights over research to ensure it serves their goals, that undermines scientific independence. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with the revelations that spurred the senators’ actions. Open records requests from Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center revealed that Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and the utility giant Southern Company were funding Wei-hock Soon, an aerospace engineer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has long disputed the overwhelming evidence that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels….

  • Mike678

    Wow–the ignorant trolls are coming out of the woodwork.

    • Max

      In their defense they’ve got no one to praise on the progressive side so they’ve resorted to hijacking conservative blogs. When you’re best candidate is responsible for a dead ambassador, takes money from foreign countries while serving as SS, and is a proven liar, there aren’t a lot of options on the positive side.

      • Max

        Did I mention she’s not even a progressive yet they’ll vote for her anyway.

        • Warrington Faust

          Well, there is always Liz Warren.

          • Max

            Another liar. They’re on a roll.

      • Mike678

        Hijack is not the word I would use. Frankly, all they accomplish is to demonstrate just how small, blind and ignorant they are. Again, understandable given the mediocre RI educational system, but you’d think people could grow a bit. Perhaps they are young….

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