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Setting Up Political Operatives

I’ve expressed skepticism that the state Ethics Commission will see a violation in Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s hiring of a member of the Providence Democratic City Committee and subsequent campaign agreement with that council.  In general, the commission has held the view that corruption only exists in the private sector.  Maybe a political committee will count as a private sector organization under its taxonomy, but I doubt it.

Abstruse government rules aside, the agreement, which Raimondo released on the Sunday of a three-day weekend, looks really bad, mostly because of this part:

No later than January 31, 2018, the Committee will authorize Patrick Ward (“Ward”) to open the following three accounts (collectively, the “Accounts”)…

The Committee agrees that Ward shall have exclusive and plenary authority to spend, transfer, and otherwise disburse funds from the Accounts for any lawful purpose… and shall be the only signatory on the Accounts…, except that Ward may designate any other persons of his choosing to also exercise these powers.  No other person’s approval will be required to authorize the spending, transfer, or disbursement of funds from the Accounts.

So, the agreement doesn’t leave the money in the control of the “committee president,” or any other such language that would give the committee as a whole ultimate control.  It gives control to somebody to whom the governor recently gave a $71,608, in company with his wife’s job in the administration.

The governor insists that the agreement doesn’t establish any “master and servant” relationship, but it gives the committee as a body no control outside of one of the governor’s employees.  Let’s just say that doesn’t look very good or ethical.

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Don’t Forget the Real Scheme Regarding Smiley

Yesterday’s Providence Journal “Political Scene” reminded readers about the windfall that Brown University recently paid for a house owned by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s chief of staff, Brett Smiley:

In July 2017, the university purchased a two-and-a-half story, federal-style Colonial house at 37 George St. — assessed by the city at $843,600 — from Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief-of-staff Brett Smiley and his husband, James DeRentis.

The university paid them $1.1 million, according to city records.

As I detailed in July, the price that Brown paid for the house may not be the scandal (although it’s conspicuous that Brown has plenty of reasons to want to be on the good side of Raimondo’s upper echelon).  The property assessment is the oddity.  Smiley’s assessment, made while he worked in the administration of Democrat Mayor Jorge Elorza, was actually 6% below what he’d paid two years earlier, even though his neighborhood generally increased in value by 20% during that period, saving him something like $4,400 per year.

Don’t forget that Smiley ran for mayor as a progressive, which is very telling of progressive thinking.  They create a big-government funnel of money and power and then position themselves right at the tip.

This is just how it’s going to work until Rhode Islanders stop falling for the rhetoric and insist that government go back to working for us, not connected insiders who like to talk about supporting the oppressed.

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The Illness of and Medicine for Corporate Crony Incentives

With a mention of the questionable benefit from having wooed General Electric to Boston with $150 million in subsidies, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby argues against the crony-capitalist bribing of companies to locate within a jurisdiction:

Amazon says it is seeking to build its new home in a metropolitan area with a large population, an international airport, and good schools. But as everyone understands, it also expect to be courted with publicly-funded “incentives” — some combination of property-tax abatements, job-creation credits, direct grants, sales-tax refunds, land-acquisition assistance, and the other varieties of corporate welfare that governments have concocted to lure businesses. Amazon knows how the economic-redevelopment game is played in what The Economist calls this “sweet land of subsidy.” (Just this week, Wisconsin agreed to pay Foxconn a staggering $3 billion in subsidies to construct a flat-screen factory in the state.) If cities and states are determined to compete for Amazon’s new campus by showering it with fistfuls of taxpayer dollars, the company can’t be blamed for pocketing the largesse.

But what excuse do mayors and governors have? Again and again they spend taxpayers’ funds to woo companies in this way. Again and again the taxpayers get jilted.

Yet, this is the strategy that our Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, wishes to expand in her recently proposed budget, including special subsidies to lower-end cronies, from students to small businesses.  Under this model, the government makes it unreasonably difficult for individuals and businesses to act economically and then tries to take credit for easing the burden with subsidies… for those individuals and businesses willing to kneel before the bureaucrats and be bought into the game.

By way of a bigger-picture medicine for this hard-to-kick mental disease, I like Glenn Reynolds’s suggestion:

State tax abatements and other “incentives” should be treated as taxable income at the federal level. States should be encouraged to have low taxes for every company, not just the favored few.

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Challenging The Progressive-Left

At the Center, we know that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation forced upon the people by an ever-growing state government is the main culprit in causing Rhode Island’s weak and stagnant performance. Look at it this way, heavy handed action by a state government that primarily seeks to perpetuate itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving.

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Rhode Island In 47th Place On The Jobs & Opportunity Index

Happy New Year! In 2018, Rhode Islanders want to achieve their hopes and dreams of better life for their families. In order for the Ocean State to prosper, we need an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, and creates quality jobs. In this regard, the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate is often used by state lawmakers as a benchmark to evaluate the results of their policy initiatives. However, this rate represents only a very narrow look at the employment health of a state and can often paint an incomplete, or even inaccurate, snapshot of the broader economic picture.

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