ProJo (hearts) Raimondo

May 30, 2012

Every newspaper has sacred cows. The Providence Journal’s latest is State Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The mordant newsroom joke is that Raimondo is so sacred that she `moos’. Raimondo is a favorite of publisher Howard Sutton; the two served together on the board of Crossroads, which does much good work in our community to help the homeless get back on their feet.

The ProJo’s crush on Raimondo goes back to her election and accelerated during her push to trim pension benefits for state employees during last year’s special pension session of the General Assembly. At the same time The ProJo has given Raimondo, a rookie politician who also happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, puffy coverage, the paper has  hammered away at Gov. Lincoln Chafee. (The ProJo endorsed Democrat Frank Caprio for governor in 2010).

Every week brings more ProJo cotton candy coverage and editorial genuflecting for Raimondo. Compared to other pols, Raimondo is treated as if she walks across Narragansett Bay .

The last two days of the ProJo are Exhibits A and B. On Tuesday, the lead editorial on the 38 Studios fiasco skewered Chafee for his dealings with Raimondo. “For starters, Governor Chafee should stop his games of cat-and-mouse with Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat whom he seems to see as a potential political foe.’’

Right next to that editorial is a guest op-ed from, surprise, surprise, Gina Raimondo, urging support for her campaign to stop abusive lending practices, including payday loans.

And today’s ProJo has a huge color photo leading the Rhode Island page that depicts the treasurer tossing out the ceremonial first pitch at last night’s Pawtucket Red Sawx game between the PawSox and the Norfolk Tides. Raimondo’s opinion on 38 Studios has leaked into news coverage, even though she has nothing to do with the issue and doesn’t have much to add. (The same article last week also curiously quoted Michael McMahon, a former EDC chief who had nothing to do with 38 Studios).When Raimondo went to lobby the Warwick City Council on the Green Airport expansion recently, it was front page news. When Chafee did the same a week before Raimondo, the story was run, as the crusty old editors used to bark, deep into the paper, below the truss ads.

Governor Chafee invited all of the state general officeholders to a private briefing last Thursday on the 38 Studios mess. All of them either went personally or sent top staffers – except Raimondo.  (Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and Jennifer Wood, her chief of state, both attended).

Chafee earlier tried to set up a separate meeting with the treasurer, with the proviso that it be private since the issue was sensitive. According to Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger the meeting was cancelled only after someone from Raimondo’s office informed the media and a scrum of reporters appeared outside the governor’s 2nd floor State House office.

“She was scheduled to have a briefing and the whole press corps showed up outside the governor’s office,’’ says Hunsinger. “He has been open to her. But there isn’t a need for political grandstanding on this issue.’’

We have a call into Joy Fox, Raimondo spokeswoman, to get the treasurer’s side of this dust-up. But we doubt Fox tipped off the media; she is too professional for that.

Chafee’s people obviously believed the governor was being set up, so they postponed the briefing. And then Raimondo didn’t attend the briefing the next day that was called for the entire group of state general officeholders. And she didn’t send a surrogate, according to Hunsinger.

While Raimondo didn’t get the inside story of what happened at 38 Studios, she went on talk radio (Dan Yorke) to cast doubt on the Chafee Administration’s oversight of  Curt Schilling’s company. She also acknowledged that she really didn’t know much about entire issue.

Raimondo is smart and ambitious and she probably will win higher office someday. She did very good work on the state employee pension overhaul. And for a rookie politician, she has a natural feel for the arena, a transition that not every successful business executive can slide into. Raimondo is full of promise if  she decides to stick with politics. But humility sometimes goes further than hubris in politics. (See Taveras, Angel).

Chafee may well be a one-term governor. But he isn’t up for election until November 2014. Can’t we get through the 2012 election cycle before we start the 2014 sweepstakes?