gina raimondo

Taveras has teachers’ union, ed reform support as he eyes bid for governor

September 17th, 2013 at 1:31 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Just three years after a national labor leader accused Providence Mayor Angel Taveras of trying to “crush unions,” political analysts say the first-term Democrat’s hopes of becoming governor may hinge on how much support he wins from organized labor.

Taveras, who succeeded David Cicilline as mayor in 2011, is widely expected to jump into next year’s race for governor, where he’s likely to square off against General Treasurer Gina Raimondo in the Democratic primary. Incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who recently became a Democrat, announced earlier this month he won’t seek re-election.

Read the rest of this story »


Raimondo joins Taveras in using WSJ to knock hedge funds

September 13th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

WSJ_pg1_9-9-2011Providence Mayor Angel Taveras made some news in June when he told a Wall Street Journal reporter he was concerned about whether the city was getting enough bank for its buck by investing roughly 15% of its pension assets in hedge funds. “To me, it’s a question of whether we can get the same performance for less risk and fewer fees,” the mayor told the newspaper.

Three months later, Treasurer Gina Raimondo – the mayor’s likely rival for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination – has offered her own criticism of hedge fund fees to a Wall Street Journal reporter in a front-page story Monday headlined: “Hedge Funds Cut Back On Fees.”

Raimondo’s comments don’t come in a vacuum, of course; she has come under heavy criticism from a Forbes.com contributor and local union leaders for shifting more than $1 billion of pension assets into hedge funds, which last year left the state with subpar investment returns.

“Hedge funds could make the case for charging a 2% management fee when they were managing much less money,” Raimondo told the paper. “But do they still need to charge that much when they are now managing billions, not millions?”

Investment fees can quickly add up. Rhode Island’s pension fund spent nearly $46 million on fees in 2011-12, while Providence’s much smaller fund spent more than $2 million, city documents show.

But the WSJ noted that not all hedge funds are created equal in Raimondo’s eyes (emphasis added):

Even some of those at the vanguard of pushing for better investor terms seem willing to pay high fees for certain big-name funds, an indication of why the shift to lower fees has been gradual. Rhode Island, for example, pays management fees of 1.5% or less for most of the funds it invests in. But it continues to pay performance fees of 25% to invest with funds run by Brevan Howard Asset Management LP and the D.E. Shaw Group, two of the best-known firms in the hedge-fund world.

“The State Investment Commission always tries to negotiate better fees whenever possible, but fees are not the only consideration,” the treasurer’s spokeswoman said in a statement. It “also looks for the best expected risk and return and value for money.”

• Related: Taveras’s 13.4% pension investment return beats Raimondo’s 11.1% (Aug. 13)


Raimondo removing ‘for RI Treasurer’ from her Facebook page

September 10th, 2013 at 9:41 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Here’s another tea leaf for you to read.

Facebook users who’ve “liked” the Gina Raimondo for RI Treasurer page received the following notification tonight:

Raimondo_Facebook_change_Sept_2013

Basically, the message says Raimondo’s campaign Facebook page will remove the “for RI Treasurer” slogan from its headline on Sept. 23. As it happens, that’s just a few days before the treasurer’s much-anticipated women-focused fundraiser, where it’s possible she could reveal more about her future plans.

Raimondo’s Facebook tweak comes the same day Cranston Mayor Allan Fung formed an exploratory committee studded with Republican luminaries to signal his seriousness about seeking the governor’s office.

• Related: Analysis: Chafee scrambles the 2014 campaign – once again (Sept. 4)


SEC is investigating 38 Studios deal; EDC won’t provide details

September 10th, 2013 at 6:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi and Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the $75-million taxpayer-backed loan that the R.I. Economic Development Corporation gave to Curt Schilling’s failed video-game startup 38 Studios, WPRI.com has learned.

The SEC’s 38 Studios probe, which has not been previously reported, is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of how former Gov. Don Carcieri’s expensive bet on the one-time Red Sox ace ended with the company’s spectacular public collapse in May 2012.

The EDC hired attorneys from the law firm Cohen & Gresser LLP to help respond to the SEC’s staff over a five-month period last fall and winter, according to documents WPRI.com obtained by filing a request under the Access to Public Records Act.

EDC spokeswoman Melissa Czerwein confirmed that lawyers from Cohen & Gresser “were retained based on their expertise in relation to an inquiry from the SEC.”

(more…)


Watch Newsmakers: Political roundtable on Chafee and 2014

September 8th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site


Analysis: Chafee scrambles the 2014 campaign – once again

September 4th, 2013 at 7:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Chafee_Raimondo_Taveras

Angel Taveras has always liked Lincoln Chafee. But he’s probably never liked him more than he does today.

Chafee’s surprise announcement that he won’t seek re-election – made outside the DMV, no less – sets up the 2014 Democratic primary for governor as a clear choice between two formidable candidates: Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, each a first-termer with a high approval rating.

That’s good news for Taveras. Raimondo isn’t going to win over the state’s politically powerful public-sector unions, and she’s going to face at least some resistance from those liberal Democrats who are skeptical of her ties to the financial sector. Taveras, on the other hand, is viewed more warmly by labor for negotiating his pension cuts – an oft-heard talking point these days.

The big challenge for Taveras was going to be competing with Chafee for the same slice of the electorate – Latinos, liberals and labor. Chafee was unlikely to win the primary, but it’s conceivable he could have taken enough votes from Taveras to hand victory to Raimondo – an ironic possibility considering Chafee has a much warmer relationship with the mayor than he does with the treasurer.

(more…)


RI pension fund again lags its peers with return of 11.1%

August 27th, 2013 at 1:36 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi

The investment performance of Rhode Island’s pension fund continues to lag behind its peers under the new mix of assets adopted at Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s urging that relies more heavily on hedge funds.

Rhode Island’s $7.6-billion pension fund earned 11.07% during the 12 months ended June 30, according to Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the state’s custodial bank. The median public-sector pension plan with assets of at least $5 billion earned 12.43% over the same period, Wilshire Associates Inc. reported this month.

Rhode Island’s pension investments also grew more slowly over the three years and five years ended June 30 compared with the median plan of at least $5 billion, according to Wilshire and BNY Mellon. But Rhode Island’s return over the 10-year period ended June 30 was 7.42%, better than the median plan’s 7.23%.

(more…)


20 facts of life in politics show why Raimondo’s money matters

August 26th, 2013 at 4:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Friend’s-of-Nesi’s-Notes Chris “The Fix” Cillizza and Nathan Gonzales of Rothenberg Political Report have come up with, respectively, 10 immutable rules of politics and 10 things losing candidates say. Both posts are well worth a read, but with Rhode Island heading into a big political year, I thought I’d summarize them:

1. Money is most things … but not everything.

2. No swing voter cares about campaign finance reform.

3. Candidates matter.

4. No politician goes to Iowa by accident. NONE.

5. Saying “no” to a race doesn’t mean you aren’t running.

6. Endorsements (almost) never matter.

7. Negative ads work.

8. All successful candidates use polling.

9. Running for random downballot office ≠ running for major statewide office.

10. Geography matters. A lot.

… and the things losing candidates say …

11. “I’m running a grass-roots campaign.”

12. “The only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day.”

13. “I’m the next [insert big-name politician here].”

14. “I’m not going to run any negative ads.”

15. “I’m not going to accept PAC money.”

16. “My son is running my campaign.”

17. “Money doesn’t win elections, ideas do.”

18. “I’m going to win this race the same way I did when I got elected to the State House.”

19. “People know me.”

20. “My district is different.”

One big takeaway here: don’t listen to anyone who says Gina Raimondo’s money isn’t a big deal. It is. With $2 million in the bank, she can bury Angel Taveras and Lincoln Chafee in negative ads long before the fall campaign draws near – just like Barack Obama did to Mitt Romney. She can also respond to attacks.

People often point out that Frank Caprio spent $2.7 million but came in third in 2010, which is true – if Raimondo runs a terrible campaign, she can spend a lot of money and lose, too. But Chafee spent nearly as much as Caprio ($2.5 million) and won – while a little more money might have won it for John Robitaille. Again, Raimondo’s money does not mean she will win – it just gives her an important advantage in the race.

Or, as former Bruce Sundlun adviser David Preston put it on Twitter recently: “Never heard of ‘too much money’ cited as a campaign problem.”


Taveras’s 13.4% pension return beats Raimondo’s 11.1%

August 13th, 2013 at 2:48 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Providence is significantly outpacing the state of Rhode Island in the battle of the pension plans.

Providence’s $247-million pension fund, the second-largest in Rhode Island, earned a return of 13.4% during the 12 months ended June 30 – more than two percentage points better than the 11.1% earned by the $7.55-billion state fund over the same period, according to data obtained from the city by WPRI.com.

In fact, Providence’s pension investments have consistently performed better than Rhode Island’s over the last decade, a period during which Providence’s Board of Investment Commissioners has been chaired by Mayors Angel Taveras and David Cicilline, as this chart comparing their returns shows:

Taveras_Raimondo_pension_returns_2003_2013

(more…)


New study by ALEC praises Raimondo for pension changes

August 13th, 2013 at 12:01 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

A new study out Tuesday offers more praise for Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s approach to pension changes, though it may also offer new fodder for her political opponents.

The study by Dan Liljenquist, a former Utah state senator who unsuccessfully challenged Orrin Hatch for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination last year, was released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-leaning group which has drawn criticism from Rhode Island liberals in the past.

The study, “Keeping the Promise: State Solutions for Government Pension Reform,” paints a bleak picture of pension systems’ current funding levels nationwide, and argues lawmakers should look to Rhode Island as one example of how they can reduce the costs to taxpayers.

“Rhode Island has gained both notoriety and praise for its pension reforms,” Liljenquist writes. “Although some legislators launch study groups or hold hearings but do not change anything, Rhode Island made some significant changes in just 11 months.”

Liljenquist writes that “Raimondo was rewarded for her work” reaching out to unions and workers. But he also says lawmakers could “easily and quietly” boost benefits in the future, and suggests that failing to eliminate defined-benefit plans for all retirees “means maintaining some further exposure to bankruptcy risk.”

The full study is available on ALEC’s website. Its praise for Raimondo contrasts with the criticism the pension law received in June in a study released by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, another national group.


Lawyers ask judge for more time in pension mediation

August 6th, 2013 at 1:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Dan McGowan

Lawyers for the state and public-sectors unions have asked a judge for more time to discuss a potential settlement of a lawsuit challenging Rhode Island’s 2011 landmark pension law before it heads to trial.

The lawyers provided R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter with their sixth update on the mediation talks since February, according to court spokesman Craig Berke. Taft-Carter ordered the two sides to the table in December, six months after the law took effect.

General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, the key architect of the pension overhaul, has said suspending retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) until the pension system is 80% funded and moving most current employees into a hybrid pension plan will strengthen to retirement system and save the states billions of dollars.

Berke said attorneys on both sides will provide Taft-Carter with another update on Sept. 5 at Kent County Superior Court, which is where the judge is assigned this fall.


Republican Robitaille eyeing 2014 governor’s race

August 5th, 2013 at 2:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Just when you thought he was out, the Republican runner-up in the 2010 governor’s race on Monday said he is considering running for the state’s top job again in 2014.

John Robitaille, who finished two percentage points behind Gov. Lincoln Chafee in a four-way race in 2010, said Chafee’s decision to join the Democratic Party and Moderate Party standard bearer Ken Block’s flirtation with the Republican Party have prompted him to reassess his options.

Read the rest of this story »


Special-interest groups spend big during legislative session

August 2nd, 2013 at 6:31 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Political action committees operated by some of Rhode Island’s most powerful special-interest groups spent more than $728,000 during the legislative session, according to a WPRI.com review of campaign finance reports filed Wednesday.

Read the rest of this story »


Raimondo, McKee, de Ramel, Caprio lead political money race

August 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The latest quarterly finance reports from Rhode Island’s state and local politicians were due to the R.I. Board of Elections by midnight last night, and the results offer a glimpse at who’s got an early advantage heading into next year’s campaign.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: DreamWorks CEO, Facebook executive among Raimondo donors (July 31)


Raimondo’s campaign war chest jumps to $2M; gov bid looms

July 31st, 2013 at 6:02 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Chafee_Raimondo_TaverasTreasurer Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest now tops $2 million, about three times more than her second-closest rival in the 2014 governor’s race, as the first-term Democrat continues to be a fundraising juggernaut.

Raimondo raised $399,420 from April 1 to June 30, finishing the second quarter with $2.06 million on hand, her campaign disclosed Wednesday in a filing with the R.I. Board of Elections. She had $1.7 million on March 31.

As a comparison, former Treasurer Frank Caprio, who was a prodigious fundraiser in his own right ahead of his 2010 gubernatorial bid, had $1.4 million on hand at the same point in the last election cycle.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Raimondo’s fellow Democrat and another potential candidate for governor next year, raised $157,705 during the second quarter to finish with $692,590 on hand, his campaign disclosed in its Board of Elections filing. Taveras had $560,779 on March 31.

(more…)


RI pension fund earned 11% last year as market rebounds

July 24th, 2013 at 11:20 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s state pension fund earned 11.1% in the 2012-13 fiscal year, a big improvement over its 1.4% rise the prior year as a worldwide market rebound boosted returns, Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s office announced Wednesday. The fund’s assets totaled $7.55 billion as of June 30.

The 11.1% return came in below the 11.3% return of the fund’s benchmark over the same period. It was also less than the Massachusetts fund’s 12.7% return or CalPERS’ 12.5% increase. Meanwhile, a status conference on progress in mediating the union lawsuit challenging the state’s 2011 pension law is set for Aug. 6.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: Chart: How Raimondo has changed RI’s pension investments (April 4)


Raimondo ally forms Super PAC for female gov candidates

July 12th, 2013 at 5:09 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

Veteran activist and former congressional candidate Kate Coyne McCoy has launched a Super PAC aimed at helping to elect Democratic female governors that could spend plenty of money in Rhode Island next year.

McCoy, a political consultant who previously served as regional director for EMILY’s List, told WPRI.com the American LeadHERship PAC hasn’t selected the states it will focus on, but acknowledged she considers General Treasurer Gina Raimondo a personal friend.

“It is grossly apparent to me that there is only one Democratic pro-choice woman in the governor’s office in the country, and that to me is appalling,” McCoy said Friday.

(more…)


Democrat Seth Magaziner files to run for RI treasurer in 2014

July 12th, 2013 at 4:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Seth_Magaziner_Trillium-Asset-ManagementThe son of longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton confidante Ira Magaziner has taken a major step toward running for Rhode Island general treasurer next year, WPRI.com has confirmed.

Seth Magaziner, 29, filed an official notice July 3 with the R.I. Board of Elections declaring his intention to run for treasurer as a Democrat, which will allow him to raise money for a campaign.

Magaziner said he hasn’t made up his mind yet about whether to run.

“I’m still exploring a run for General Treasurer, and filing for candidacy will allow me some additional flexibility as I continue the decision making process,” he told WPRI.com in an email.

(more…)


RI pension plan honored with Hedge Fund Industry Award

July 9th, 2013 at 1:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s hedge fund-heavy investment strategy for the state pension fund may be controversial in Rhode Island, but it’s winning plaudits in New York City.

The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island won Small Public Plan of the Year in Institutional Investor magazine’s 11th Annual Hedge Fund Industry Awards, given last month at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan. New York City won Large Public Plan of the Year, with $15 billion in assets the dividing line.

The awards “recognized the hedge funds, funds of hedge funds, investment consultants, endowments, foundations, family offices, corporate funds, public funds and sovereign funds that stood out for their performance innovation, achievements and contributions to the industry in the past year,” the magazine said.

As of May 31, Rhode Island’s $7.7-billion pension fund had earned a 16.5% return over one year and a 7.8% return over 10 years. The state beat out Delaware, New Mexico and San Bernardino, Calif., for its award.

“Given the important role alternative investments play in the pension portfolio to reduce risk and generate strong performance for our members, we must continue to push for transparency to build public trust,” Raimondo said in a statement. “Fee structures should be lowered and evolve to better balance risk and reward.”

• Related: Gina Raimondo is this month’s Institutional Investor cover girl (Jan. 9)


Raimondo: SEC ends pension probe without charging RI

July 9th, 2013 at 10:57 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Securities and Exchange Commission has closed its investigation into Rhode Island’s pension disclosures and won’t pursue charges against the state for failing to provide accurate information to investors, Treasurer Gina Raimondo office announced Tuesday.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: SEC settles with Illinois over pensions as RI probe continues (March 13)


Chafee signs RI budget, 10-cent Sakonnet toll into law

July 3rd, 2013 at 4:13 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Wednesday signed into law a 2013-14 state budget after a contentious debate over 38 Studios bond payments and tolls, although he expressed concerns about changes lawmakers made to his original proposal – and took a swipe at Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Read the rest of this story »


Chicago Mayor Emanuel hosts fundraiser for Gina Raimondo

June 27th, 2013 at 9:43 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

At this rate, soon Treasurer Gina Raimondo will be able to start a “Mayors for Gina” organization.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosted a fundraiser for the first-term treasurer, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2014, on Thursday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chase Tower in the Windy City, a Raimondo aide told WPRI.com. Emanuel, a Democrat, was President Obama’s first chief of staff and previously served as a U.S. congressman.

It’s the second major fundraiser this month that a big-city mayor has hosted for Raimondo, coming exactly a week after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw a campaign event for her at his Manhattan townhouse. The wealth of the two cities combined with the wide networks of Emanuel and Bloomberg should give a significant boost to Raimondo’s campaign war chest for this fundraising quarter, which ends Sunday.

Raimondo left Rhode Island on Thursday morning for the Chicago event and returns tonight, the aide said.

Emanuel suggested last year that Illinois should look at the pension changes spearheaded by Raimondo in Rhode Island as his state seeks to fix its own underfunded retirement system.

• Related: Chicago Tribune meets ‘rock star’ Raimondo, praises EngageRI (April 6)


Budget sent to Senate with 38 Studios, pension payments

June 26th, 2013 at 10:18 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island lawmakers approved an $8.2-billion state budget for 2013-14 on Wednesday night that includes $2.5 million to pay the 38 Studios bonds and a $12.9 million pension payment. It passed less than 24 hours after House Speaker Gordon Fox’s initial tax-and-spending plan got torpedoed.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: Fox forced to postpone budget debate after pension rebellion (June 26)


Fox forced to postpone budget debate after pension rebellion

June 26th, 2013 at 2:33 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Gordon Fox abruptly suspended Rhode Island lawmakers’ biggest debate of the year at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday after rank-and-file legislators rebelled and rejected his team’s plan to cancel a bonus payment into the state pension fund.

Fox was forced to recess the House in the early hours of Wednesday morning to determine how to deal with the sudden budget shortfall of nearly $13 million; lawmakers may be asked to reconsider the issue when they reconvene Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Read the rest of this story »


Taveras in WSJ story about pension funds wary of Wall St.

June 21st, 2013 at 2:14 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The Wall Street Journal is pouring more fuel on the fire as Rhode Island continues to debate whether Treasurer Gina Raimondo is making the right move by investing more than $1 billion of the state’s pension assets in hedge funds, this time with an article today by Michael Corkery, a former Projo scribe, and Kristen Grind.

The WSJ discusses how Montgomery County, Pa., is moving almost all of its $470 million in pension assets into low-cost index funds run by Vanguard Group – mainly on the advice of John C. “Jack” Bogle, Vanguard’s legendary 84-year-old founder, who is an impassioned opponent of high investment fees.

As Corkery and Grind note, Montgomery County’s leaders aren’t alone:

Providence, R.I., Mayor Angel Taveras is similarly concerned, and asked a consultant to explore alternatives to his city pension’s 15% allocation to hedge funds. “To me, it’s a question of whether we can get the same performance for less risk and fewer fees,” says Mr. Taveras, who heads the pension investment board.

Most pensions aren’t ready to forsake Wall Street entirely. Desperate to hit high annual-return targets, but worried about big swings in the stock market, pensions have sought so-called alternative investments to reduce volatility.

Officials in Montgomery County and other experts admit that the index-fund approach increases the risk of volatility. …

For his part, Mr. Bogle says he has talked to other pension funds about the benefits of moving into indexing but says he waits for the funds to contact him first. “I will always see them,” he says.

That second-to-last paragraph captures the crux of Raimondo’s argument in favor of adding hedge funds: it’s a way to reduce the year-to-year swings in the value of the pension fund, which is still paying out more in annual benefits than it’s getting in contributions. Still, perhaps she should give Bogle a call.

• Related: Taveras invests 20% in hedge funds, more than Raimondo (May 8)


Raimondo to lawmakers: Don’t skip $12.9M pension deposit

June 20th, 2013 at 5:34 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Governor Chafee and Democratic legislative leaders have ignored Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s argument that they should make a $12.9 million payment into the state pension system as part of the 2013-14 state budget.

The House Finance Committee voted Tuesday to repeal a provision of state law that requires Rhode Island to put surplus tax revenue into the underfunded pension system for state employees and teachers. By repealing the law as part of the budget, taxpayers can put $12.9 million less toward pensions next year alone.

In a Feb. 6 letter to House Finance Chairman Helio Melo, Raimondo said she opposed ending the requirement that surplus tax revenue goes to the pension fund “because providing retirement security is a top priority for me.” Raimondo’s office said Thursday her position on the issue hasn’t changed.

(more…)


Bloomberg backs Raimondo in ’14, criticizes Chafee on K-12

June 17th, 2013 at 3:43 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is swinging his support behind Treasurer Gina Raimondo as she prepares to run for governor, three years after the big-city billionaire backed incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Bloomberg will host a fundraiser for Raimondo this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at his townhouse in Manhattan, aides to both politicians confirmed Monday in response to inquiries from WPRI.com. The treasurer will travel to New York on Wednesday and return Thursday night.

“Gina is one of the most impressive public officials in America today in the mayor’s opinion,” Howard Wolfson, a senior counsel to Bloomberg and deputy mayor, told WPRI.com. “She has done a phenomenal job and she will do an even better job as governor.”

“We have followed her performance from New York, especially around the issue of pension reform,” he said. “She is a serious, committed, policy-driven public official. You only have to meet her once to know how impressive she is. He really thinks she’s a superstar.”

In a statement to WPRI.com, Raimondo said: “As I’ve said many times, I am seriously considering running for governor and will make that decision this year. I am humbled by the support of Mayor Bloomberg and by everyone here in Rhode Island that has been encouraging me to run.”

Raimondo had $1.7 million in her campaign war chest as of March 31, far more than any other Rhode Island politician. “We need the resources to run a great campaign and this fundraiser hosted by Mayor Bloomberg is a great help in the process,” she said.

The decision by Bloomberg, a three-term independent now in his final year as mayor, to harvest campaign cash for Raimondo is a blow to Governor Chafee, who was Bloomberg’s fellow independent until last month, when Chafee joined the Democratic Party with President Obama’s blessing.

Wolfson, who was a top strategist on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, acknowledged Governor Chafee and the mayor haven’t always seen eye to eye.

“Look, I think there’s some things that the governor has done that we haven’t been pleased with, especially around the issue of education,” he said. “But in many respects this is really an affirmation of Gina Raimondo. We get opportunities to meet with public officials from all 50 states, and she really, really is in a class by herself.”

Bloomberg actively supported Chafee’s bid for governor, traveling to Rhode Island twice in the final months of the 2010 campaign to burnish the former U.S. senator’s credentials as a post-partisan and pragmatic candidate. “Like me, Linc has a strong commitment to being independent,” the mayor said at the time.

Chafee repaid the compliment, calling Bloomberg “a great man and a great leader,” and used his endorsement in a campaign TV ad. As governor he later traveled to New York to meet with “my fellow independent” Bloomberg and discuss the economy.

Now, however, Chafee is a Democrat – and he’s facing a potentially tough primary against Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras next year to win the party’s nomination. Despite that, Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger brushed off Bloomberg’s decision.

“Obviously the treasurer believes that she has sufficient time to travel out of state and raise money,” Hunsinger told WPRI.com. “The governor, however, is focused on things that matter to Rhode Islanders and doing the business of being governor.” She noted that the revised state budget is set to be unveiled Tuesday.

Asked whether Chafee is disappointed that Bloomberg is helping his rival, Hunsinger replied: “He’s not playing politics right now. He’s focused on doing the work of the people.”

Taveras, too, can claim a Bloomberg connection.

In March, Providence beat out 304 other cities to win a $5 million grand-prize awarded by Bloomberg’s foundation for the most innovative municipal policy ideas, with a plan to record low-income children’s conversations and use the data to boost their vocabularies. Taveras traveled to New York to receive the award and appeared on “CBS This Morning” with Bloomberg to discuss Providence’s big win.

Taveras has “come up with something that … addresses one of the fundamental problems: too many of our kids are coming from families where they don’t have exposure to broad vocabularies, to literature, and that’s going to hurt them all their lives unless you do something about it,” Bloomberg said on CBS.

“And rather than ring his hands and say, ‘Yes, this is a big problem,’ he and his staff have come up with an innovative idea which we think will work, which is also transferrable to other places,” Bloomberg said. “That was one of the requirements to win the challenge – he had to have a great idea but it also had to be applicable elsewhere.”

Bloomberg donated $1,000 last fall to two candidates for General Assembly: Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, and former Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross-Smith, who lost her comeback bid, according to R.I. Board of Elections filings. His daughter, Emma Bloomberg, donated $1,000 to Raimondo last August. Bloomberg also gave $160,500 to an outside education-reform group that spent on legislative races.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi


Audit finds state overpaid disabled retirees $559K

June 12th, 2013 at 1:02 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The organization that oversees the state’s pension system is considering seeking criminal or civil action against six disabled retirees that were overpaid $559,000 by the state, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said Tuesday.

Read the rest of this story »


Education board votes to extend Deborah Gist’s contract

June 7th, 2013 at 5:02 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – It will be two more years for embattled R.I. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

The R.I. Board of Education voted Thursday to allow Gist to continue guiding the state’s public schools until 2015, a deal that will throw her square into the middle of a Democratic primary for governor next year that is expected to be contentious.

Read the rest of this story »


Analysis: Chafee scrambles 2014 race with Dem Party switch

May 29th, 2013 at 3:16 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

It’s nearly official: Lincoln Chafee will be a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.

Chafee spokesman Christian Varieka told WPRI.com the governor will make his announcement at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Warwick City Hall. (Yes, Varieka made the call on personal time.) The news – first broken hundreds of miles south of Rhode Island by Politico and The Washington Post – struck the state’s political class like a thunderbolt Wednesday, despite the fact that Chafee has long indicated he was open to the possibility and amid rising speculation the move was coming.

Ideologically speaking, the switch makes perfect sense: Chafee is more aligned with the national Democratic Party than many of its nominal officeholders in Rhode Island. Think about it: this is a governor elected with the support of the state’s teachers’ unions on a platform of raising taxes to fund social services who just signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation’s most Catholic state.

Politically, Chafee has been a Democrat in all but name for a long time now – in 2012 he not only co-chaired President Obama’s re-election campaign and spoke at the Democratic National Convention, he even endorsed Sheldon Whitehouse’s bid for the very U.S. Senate seat he took from Chafee in 2006.

Clearly, Chafee and his savvy chief of staff, former Patrick Kennedy aide George Zainyeh, decided the approval-challenged governor’s best bet for a second term was in the Democratic Party. (Indeed, Chafee’s 2011 decision to replace the more Republican-friendly Pat Rogers with Zainyeh now seems telling.) But what’s the path? And are they right? Here are a few initial thoughts.

(more…)