If “Misinformation” is the New Standard, Rhode Island’s General Treasurer Must Step Down Immediately

magaziner-gun-pinterest-featured

This morning on the WPRO Morning News with Gene Valicenti – link to audio – General Treasurer Seth Magaziner elaborated on his call for Rhode Island Representative Justin Price to resign from the House of Representatives for spreading misinformation, saying

When elected officials use their platforms to spread (mis)information, to spread lies, they have to be called out for it.”

And

…as elected officials, we should be held to a higher standard …

Interesting.  Alright, check out this analysis from August, 2018 by Mike Riley.

In assessing the effort to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island, it is important to review the role of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. The state treasurer was asked to analyze the costs and opine on affordability, as would be expected with a large borrowing like this. Mr. Magaziner opined in October 2017 and in June 2018 as numbers changed along with the terms of the deal and then opined again recently, finally giving a nod to the deal.

But what everyone needs to know is that $350 million dollars in debt for Pawtucket’s other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for former employees was not used in his analysis. This is more than twice the city’s pension debt! In fact, it was purposely left out by Magaziner. Including OPEB debt would obviously have made the City of Pawtucket’s borrowing look dangerous and ill-conceived. …  This $350 million is so significant and overwhelming, it would be irresponsible for any treasurer to think Pawtucket absorbing new debt was a good idea.

Well, that’s an eye-opener.  Nice work by Mike Riley catching that serious piece of misinformation by General Treasurer Magaziner.  Ultimately, the PawSox left Rhode Island and these ill-conceived, unaffordable bonds were never issued.  But that was very much despite this substantive misinformation that Treasurer Magaziner issued about Pawtucket’s financial condition.

Now, it is absurd to call on an elected official to step down due to a statement of misinformation; in part, because it falls into a broader category of free speech and, in part, because about three quarters of all elected officials in the country would instantly have to step down.  (I heard that; stop cheering!). 

But that is the position of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. 

I do agree with him when he says, as he did this morning, that “As Americans, we all have a duty to speak up when we see people in positions of authority spreading misinformation” and that elected officials “should use our platforms responsibly”.  Via this post, accordingly, I am fulfilling that duty.  Specifically, I am calling out Mr. Magaziner for a piece of misinformation that is especially egregious because he communicated it in his capacity as the state’s General Treasurer in an analysis about a major financial decision facing a municipality and the state.

Clearly, Mr. Magaziner did not use his platform as General Treasurer responsibly by including misinformation in this important analysis. Now, I myself am not calling on him to resign as the state’s General Treasurer for this. But by his own standard, he must do so immediately. Referring once again to Mr. Magaziner’s own words on WPRO this morning, elected officials have a duty to tell people the truth, to be honest. He failed notably to do so.