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Rhode Island’s Woman of the Year

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Lightning Rod. No woman in Rhode Island creates more positive and negative reactions than GoLocalProv’s selection for Woman of the Year in 2013. Her supporters and critics have passionate opinions about her. For some, she is a villain, and they believe she is motivated by Wall Street interests. Her supporters see her as the best Rhode Island has ever produced and one of the few leaders ever to take on the toughest issues facing the state. To them, she attacks the problems selflessly with unmatched skill and intelligence.

She Saved the Pension System and/or Rewarded Wall Street

The 2011 pension reform that Gina Raimondo orchestrated and championed was revolutionary. Make no mistake about it, pension reform was widely supported by business, Governor Lincoln Chafee, Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and the overwhelming majority of the legislature.

Matt Taibbi, who wrote a Rolling Stone magazine feature on Raimondo, "Looting the Pension Funds," takes a harsh look at Rhode Island General Treasurer, writing:

The rap (Raimondo’s argument for pension reform) was so convincing at first that the overwhelmed local burghers of her little petri-dish state didn't even know how to react. "She's Yale, Harvard, Oxford – she worked on Wall Street," says Paul Doughty, the current president of the Providence firefighters union. "Nobody wanted to be the first to raise his hand and admit he didn't know what the f--k she was talking about."

Hedge Funds

According to some, Raimondo has properly diversified Rhode Island’s pension fund by shifting a significant portion of the fund into alternative investments. GoLocal’s MINDSETTER™ John Hazen White vehemently defends her actions.

Correspondingly, GoLocal MINDSETTERS™ like Russ Moore and even conservative Republican Don Roach have raised questions about Raimondo’s motivation. While shifting dollars to hedge funds, from her standpoint, balances the funds, there has been a lack of transparency about fees being charged to the state’s retirement system. Her predecessor, State Treasurer Frank Caprio, has roundly criticized her investment strategy of moving dollars into hedge funds.

Will Raimondo be Rhode Island’s first woman Governor?

Going into the 2014 race for Governor, Raimondo has a number of advantages over the other candidates. She will lead the race in cash on hand with two-to-three times as much money as her opponents. She will have more than $2 million in her coffers. She is the second most popular elected official with 54% approval rate, second only to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.

Prior to Raimondo, only two women in Rhode Island have won the nomination of a major party to run for Governor. The first was Republican Elizabeth Leonard in 1992, she was beaten soundly Bruce Sundlun. Democrat Myrth York lost her bids for Governor in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

Raimondo is a Democrat celebrated by conservatives, a lifelong Democrat roundly criticized by many unions, and a favorite daughter linked to the biggest names on Wall Street. Ultimately, two factors may determine her chances to become Governor: 1) Does the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate her relationship with hedge funds? And 2) does her strategy in managing the investment commission prove successful? If either of these prove to be a misstep, her opportunity to be Rhode Island’s first female governor may be adversely impacted.

Rhode Island born; educated at Harvard, Yale and Oxford; and champion of one of the most important political battles in Rhode Island history –  she now faces the biggest political battle any woman in RI has ever faced.

Gina Raimondo is our selection as Woman of the Year, and our first two-time winner -- she was also selected in 2011.

Related Slideshow:
10 Questions Gina Raimondo Has to Answer When Running for Governor

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10. Money

Can she explain the amount of out of state money?

Most of the candidates for Governor need to answer the question, can they raise enough to be competitive? That is not a problem for Raimondo. She has proven to be the most skilled fundraiser, but her issue is justifying that the vast majority of the money is coming from out-of-state.

Raimondo will face a number of questions regarding who is really behind her campaign - the amount of out-of-state dollars is just one of the questions.

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9. Pension Reform

Did she only reform certain pensions?

Raimondo rose to celebrity status because of her leadership on pension reform. Her efforts helped to stabilize the pension system, but the reform was hardly democratic.

Teachers took the vast majority of the hit, while major groups of pensioners escaped reform including the judges, state police and disability pensioners. Raimondo has some explaining to do.

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8. Lack of Transparency

If she lacks transparency as Treasurer, what will it be like as Governor?

From her deepest critics to the media and even members of the retirement board, many have questioned her and her office's willingness to share information and provide the public insights into her management of the investment commission and the performance of the fund under her leadership.

Data which historically was easily accessed by the public and media is now locked behind the Raimondo wall. Often this raises serious questions and forces the media to seek the simplest information via FOIA requests.

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7. Wall Street

Why is Wall Street spending so much money supporting Raimondo?

Raimondo is the queen of fundraising and so much of it derives from the major players on Wall Street.

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6. Performance

Has Raimondo managed the pension fund competently?

The most important job of the General Treasurer might be the management of the state's retirement fund. The blockbuster investigative piece by Stephen Beale unveiled that the pension system under Raimondo lost $200 million

While she may be able to blitz the airwaves with positive messages about her bio and her leadership in pension reform, her Democratic primary competitors and/or her GOP opponent in the General Election may be able to destroy her credibility by playing up her "mismanagement of the pension system."

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5. Hedge Funds

Will Raimondo pay the price for shifting so much of the assets into Hedge Funds?

For the past six months, Raimondo has been under constant critique for shifting more than 20% of the State's retirement dollars into unregulated Hedge Funds. The critics has included forensic auditor/Forbes contributor Ted Siedle, Rolling Stones magazine's star reporter Matt Taibbi, former General Treasurer and candidate again, Frank Caprio, as well as many of the public unions. The combination of where she gets her campaign dollars, coupled with the shift in investment strategy and the under performance of the fund may all build into a snowball effect.

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4. Connect to RIers

Educated at Yale and Harvard, a Rhode Scholar and a millionaire, can she connect to the average RIer?

Raimondo is a born and bred Rhode Islander, but for her adult life she has been educated at the best colleges in the world and living a professional life aligned with many of America's super rich associated with Wall Street. In her announcement she mentioned a number of times she was a mother, but did not mention that her husband is a partner at Mckinsey - and according to Forbes magazine probably takes home $2 million or so per year.

Raimondo talks a lot about her father losing his job when she was a child, but she has come a long way since then. She could come across as the ultimate RI success story or be perceived as an out of touch venture capitalist.

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3. Siedle and Taibbi

Neither Ted Siedle or Matt Taibbi are going away - can she deflect their questions and charges?

In the past two months, both forensic auditor/Forbes columnist Ted Siedle and Rolling Stone's star reporter Matt Taibbi have raised serious issues about Raimondo's motivation and judgment.

As Taibbi wrote, "The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926#ixzz2o2bLhqKW

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2. Is she a Democrat?

Will Taveras and Pell paint her to be too conservative?

Raimondo is simply hated by the teachers unions and others - big blocks of voters in the Democratic primary. Both Clay Pell and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras will tack to the left and may compete for the same voters allowing her to sneak through to the general. However, progressives and unions may decide to pick Pell over Taveras (who is struggling to raise money and whose track record in Providence may come under fire) and then Pell can take the left leaning primary.

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1. SEC Investigation

Can Raimondo survive an SEC investigation?

Both Siedle and a state senator have written to the SEC calling for an investigation into the investment practices of Raimondo. A federal investigation would be at a minimum a black eye to the General Treasurer and an enforcement action might end a credible campaign. Timing may prove to be everything.


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Jim D

The Unions hate her so I'd be surprised if she can nake it out of the primary.

Killary Klinton

Yawn -

Debra Gist rocks, not Gina


Remember the number one lie in 2013, "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep him. PERIOD." B. Hussein Obama

lupe fiasco

KK, you need better role models! LMAO!!

David Beagle

Funny, how around here, if the unions don't like someone, they expect everyone else to hate that person too. Gina is a good example, with John DePetro another example.

Joseph Reynolds

I'm in total agreement with KK. Debra Gist in a landslide.

Jonathan Bainsworth

Yes, with the help of Texas Billionaire and former Enron Trader John Arnold, a shill organization known as Engage Rhode Island, an ignorant, uneducated cadre of reporters who don't understand the difference between a credit default swap and a Hedge Fund, and a gullible public that believes the right wing drivel that flows from the Providence Journal, you have our "Woman of the Year" Gina Raimondo the P.T. Barnum of RI, a con artist that would make Bernie Madoff proud ....the architect of the biggest scam Rhode Island has ever witnessed.

Christopher Lee

There are few profiles of courage among politicians in Rhode Island. How does a politician get ahead in Rhode Island? He or she demonstrates loyalty; never questions the rulers or speaks out; supports the status quo by voting in lockstep with the rulers, regardless of the common good; and, most importantly, ignores or fudges budgetary mathematics. They act like mere spectators watching a show about a slow, inexorable decline of a once great state. In short, most Rhode Island politicians simply go along to get along. But not Gina Raimondo.

Gina Raimondo dared to speak up and buck the status quo of ignoring pension mathematics. Life would have been much easier if she had ignored the pension math, but she decided to lead when no one else would.

Before Raimondo, Fox and Paiva-Weed had years to reform the pension math, but ignored it. Chaffee, Fox, and Paiva-Weed begrudgingly went along because they had no choice: the budget math forced them to adopt reforms. If they could have fudged the numbers and ignored reality any longer, they would have. But they could not.

Regardless how one feels about pension reform, Gina Raimondo dared to do something, anything, when, for years, most politicians ignored this issue. And despite pension reform, Rhode Island is still in decline because reforms that are far more radical and sure to anger her foes are necessary.

In short, President Thomas Jefferson once said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Gina Raimondo invited invective and abuse when she became the face of pension reform. Such treatment cannot be pleasant - bucking the status quo and speaking out never is. But at least Gina Raimondo dared to do something rather than just go along to get along. For that, at least, she deserves credit.

Johnny cakes

To Gina’s supporters she is the intrepid and courageous warrior battling the entrenched special interests and the status quo. Acting in the best interest of all Rhode Islanders. These are the dopes who do not have a clue as to how things work in the real world. Gina just came out of nowhere as our own Joan of Arc rising from humble beginnings to save us from bankruptcy. All the money she raised in her last election and this one came from where - heaven? Wake up! You really think she represents you, and your interests?

Gina’s in the pocket of the billionaires, and they have plans for her, as they reshape America’s institutions to reflect their me first, dog-eat-dog outlook and view of the world.

Gina has said that she is using “alternative investments” to “hedge” against a downturn, which is pure bullshit. When you manage a pension fund you think of a minimum 20-year timeline. You hedge by having a conservative and balanced portfolio - with low management fees. She knows this.

Warren Buffett made a million dollar bet in 2008 that the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund would outperform 5 hedge funds over a 10 year period. Halfway through the decade, according to Fortune, “Buffett’s index fund is up 8.69 percent to the fund of funds’ 0.13 percent.” Gina has never heard of this bet? Right? Gina also doesn’t know anything about all the studies that have been done on investing, which Wall Street keeps under wraps.

A recent report by the policy organization Demos.org showed “the median household could expect to pay more than $150,000 in 401(k) fees over the course of a working lifetime, or about a third of investment returns.” This is why the financial sector has shifted retirement plans, with the help of our “representatives,” away from defined-benefit pensions to 401(k’s). Now we take the risks and they take the rewards, they win either way. And on top of it, many 401(k) plans limit the funds you can invest in - they get to pick and choose.

The reform (partial privatization) of the state pension plan was also a windfall for TIAA-CREF, and just the beginning of the privatization of public pensions.

As we race to the bottom, the dopes grease the skids.

joe pregiato

As much as I agree with KK, I like anyone who Matt Taibbi says is "looting the pension funds". Hey Johnny Cakes, Gina had no choice becaused she passed math in high school, and knows that we are on an UNSUSTAINABLE path with pensions.

michael riley

Maybe I am missing something. Who else was in contention? I mean I like Deb Gist, but seriously? No Woman or man for that matter since I have been in Rhode Island has done more to help Rhode Island than Gina Raimondo. She has forced RI to deal with an issue that the local public unions were perfectly willing to play out to the logical conclusion of bankruptcy for nearly every city and town in Rhode Island. Gina did not go far enough, but she certainly exhibited a spirit and an intellect rarely seen in Rhode Island politics. Gina is not without faults, including not divesting the state pension fund of its interest in Point Judith Capital. By far the most important and revealing of her faults was her endorsement of David Cicilline and the fundraising she did for him. Gina is smart and now very very political. I appreciate what she's done and her emphasis on financial literacy and I hope she can shed that special interest and progressive cooing she has been doing lately.

Jonathan Bainsworth

Johhnycakes nailed it.

john paycheck

democrat in name only...

joe pregiato

Don't worry Frey, Bainesworth and Paycheck must have failed math in gradeschool. Even Left wing Chafee supported Gina, because he passed math. Is Chafee a Dino too? If it were up to Bainesworth, he would keep raising pensions until ALL of the RI taxpayers leave.

James Berling

The problem with RI is that the Democrats have had a super majority for more than 70 years. That’s why we have the highest taxes, highest unemployment and lowest morale.

For that reason it would be very hard for me to vote for a Democrat in this state but I have to admit Raimondo might just be the first honest, decent Democrat to come along since John O. Pastore.

GoLocalProv you made the right choice.

joe pregiato

P.S. Christopher Lee nailed it, "Chaffee, Fox, and Paiva-Weed begrudgingly went along because they had no choice: the budget math forced them to adopt reforms." That's why I love math. You can have a different ideology (Bainesworth), but 2+2 always = 4.

Mark St. Pierre

Lightning Rod yes, woman of the year...no way!

Stephen DeNinno

Joe pregiato, Lets do the real math shall we? Since you are so good at math. Average age of death of a Rhode Islander= 78.6 Gina's math.....78.6 = 85. Yup, math is math. since the history of the RI pension system, the returns ALWAYS beat the 8% assumptions. This holds true except in the biggest financial crisis in Wall St. history. Even with that, over the last 10 years, we are not that far off. In fact, it is Gina's failures in 2011 causing a measly 2% return during a huge upswing in the market. And in 2012 Providence pension system, out performed the state by a full 2 percentage points. Had the state matched the city, the total for the last 10 years, even with the crash, would have been over 7%. So in Gina's math........We will forget about the entire history of the system, and use the worst years in history (caused by Wall St.) She then cuts the assumptions adding even more to the unfunded liability and cutting COLA's all while giving any savings to the very people that caused the biggest crash since the great depression. There's your MATH. P.S. I am not in the state pension system.

Jonathan Bainsworth

You're using facts Stephen ...the enemy of the right wing.

Sandra McCullough

Woman of the Year? That’s a laugh. More like Moron of the Year.

joe pregiato

You are using libtard math. "Math is the enemy of Conservatives"?? So does that mean you are OK with a $17 Trillion national
deficit? How the pension fund performed has nothing to do with guaranteed union contracts. Just because we got a raw deal with the portfolio manager, doesn't mean taxpayers should foot the bill....unless of course you are a typical lib.

robert benson

Obviously the Gina haters don't understand basic math let alone COLA interest compounding. She doesn't want to hurt anyone-union member or non-union worker. She just did the math and realized there was no way the state defined benefit pension plan could be adequately funded. She had the guts to speak up and do something about it. btw, Frank Caprio was telling the same story. Even Gov Chafee submitted legislation in 2012 that would have let towns suspend contract provisions in order to fund their budgets and survive.

If we don't wake up and start voting for folks like Gina, every city and the whole state will become bankrupt like Central Falls and Detroit, Michigan.

Actually, that (bankruptcy) may be the only way we will ever lower state and local government spending to the point where taxes can be lowered. Only lower, competitive tax rates will attract business to this state and lower our unemployment rate, putting folks back to work for a change. Many politicians know this, but refuse to anger public employee unions for fear they will get thrown out of office. An they have the nerve to call themselves leaders; they are more like puppets!

joe pregiato

Right on Benson!...The DeNinno spin is hilarious! And Bainesworth is ignorant (don't worry Bainsy, I dont mean stupid. I mean ignorant in the literal sense: uninformed). Benson has a point; look at all the municipalities in California (liberal nirvana) that are declaring bankruptcy. I guess they did that because they didn't have the guts in past years to actually do what Gina did.

Stephen DeNinno

Joe, Insults? So intelligent. Why don't you do some research before you go spouting "facts" you know little about. First, please tell me how much of Detroit's 18 billion debt is pension related? In California, cities and towns there have WAY better pensions and COLAs than any in RI. They also spent billions thinking the real estate boom would continue. That was taxpayer money for roads, bridges, sports arenas, and other improvements that were never needed. Is the average age of death in RI 85 or 78.6? Just how is that LIBTARD math? Gina says it was 85. The CDC says 78.6. The assumed returns, do a little research on past returns. Again, I have never said something didn't have to be done, it was the way she did it. In less than one year, this woman figured out all by her self, that raising retirement age (I agree with this) eliminating COLAs, and giving ALL the savings to Wall St. That is what I have a problem with. Frank Caprio fees 13 million. Gina's fees 75 to 100 million to Wall St. Riddle me that.

Stephen DeNinno

P.S. For those hoping for BR, remember which city has the HIGHEST tax rate in the state? Central Falls. The BR saved city, that also has 3 more years of 5%+ tax increases. So If Providence goes BR, what is gained? Taxpayers will see their property taxes double, while retiree's lose most of their pensions, all the while Wall St. is protected by the bond holder first legislation. Yup, Gina's for the middle class alright.

Redd Ratt

Stephen, property taxes have gone up 45% in 7 years in Warwick without bankruptcy. Mostly to fund pensions and OPED. Our taxes will have doubled after twelve years. We'll take bankruptcy. The way it is now today's workers are getting less and less than the retiree's and the taxpayers are getting hammered.

joe pregiato

DeNinno: Of the $18billion shortfall in Detroit, $5billion is from pensions; $3.5billion deficit. Detroit's problem is compounded by the fact that the revenue was once based on a population of 2 million which is now 750,000. Plus most of the people who fled were property owning tax payers.

joe pregiato

I rarely find myself defending democrats. Just read Robert Benson's comment above. (...who is afraid of facts??)

robert benson

Stephen D. BR is a consequence of reality. You can't get blood out of a stone and U can only get so much out of the taxpayers. Once the taxpayers are tapped out, BR is the only solution. In R.I. the taxpayers for cites/towns are the property owners and they are at the limit. I concede that it isn't fair to cut retirees' benefits, but in a BR scenario, that's what happens.

Better to implement reforms a la Gina before the benny cuts are even deeper, and they will only be worse the longer we wait.

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