She invested the public pension into union-busting hedge funds while Rhode Island Treasurer, resulting in the greatest financial loss in state history, a move that has further cratered a service economy where retiree spending is a major engine of economic recovery. After proudly baptizing the state “Clinton Country” on the eve of the 2016 presidential primary, Bernie Sanders scored a slam-dunk and, the following November, the state was turned deep purple by Donald Trump. So why not continue with a career of failing upwards and make Governor Gina Raimondo a Vice Presidential contender?
It’s probably not going to come to pass but stranger things have happened. She was a superdelegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she just ended her term as the chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, and she’s been deemed a “rising star” in party politics.
In a recent interview with the Providence Journal’s Patrick Anderson, Gov. Raimondo sent out loud and clear signals to the corporate layer of the Democratic leadership that she is a willing and able foot soldier for finance looking to move further in national politics:
I think the current proposals I have seen that are being called Medicare For All are not a good approach policy-wise, substantively or politically. There are many Americans who are very happy with the health care they have, and disrupting the entire system brings great anxiety to people, justifiably. So as a matter of policy and politics, it is not a good way to go. Also the Affordable Care Act is working. It is working in Rhode Island, so it would be hard to get behind something that fundamentally disrupts the Democratic Party’s crowning achievement of the past 10 years.
Incidentally, Raimondo counts amongst her major accomplishments the failed rollout of a new welfare benefits system, colloquially known as the UHIP scandal, that led to an uptick in local prostitution as well as looking to make up budget shortfalls via a hike in Medicaid copays, which was thankfully scuttled in the legislature. In the eyes of Wall Street, of course, those episodes are considered in a very different light than the lens used by we peons.
The medical-pharmaceutical industrial complex has a major foothold in Rhode Island’s economy and labor market. Brown University operates a medical school in Providence, CVS Pharmacy has its corporate headquarters in Woonsocket, and the majority of economic growth following the 2008 crash was fostered by the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, stimulating the hiring of more workers in those beneficiary industries. With such a financial landscape, it would probably be political suicide for any Rhode Island Governor to jump the gun on Medicare for All before developing a substantial amount of support for it in the state legislature. On a more personal level, the loathsome Sackler family, currently being sued by multiple states for fueling the opiates crisis via the aggressive predatory marketing practices of their Purdue Pharma, shoveled a pretty penny into the Raimondo campaign war chest.
But Raimondo still is trying to take advantage of the political favors she gave the corporate Democratic political machine years ago. Back when she was still in the private sector, her venture capital firm gave an internship to Seth Magaziner, son of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s intimate policy wonk Ira. That job was an important stepping stone that young Seth used as part of his resumé to get elected as Raimondo’s successor at Treasury. (That his tenure has been defined by basically taking a radical departure from Raimondo’s policy course while cleaning up the mess she made is a completely different story.)
As I reported last month, the original plan after a 2016 Democratic presidential victory was for Raimondo to run for Senate in a special election after incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse would have been appointed to a new Clinton administration, probably at either EPA or the Attorney General’s office. After Madame Secretary lost the election to a nasty narcissistic white nationalist game show host who never even served a day on the PTA, both aspirants have found themselves in a political limbo.
Whitehouse comes from the old money Yankee family flock of Rhode Island aristocracy, someone who counts amongst his inheritance a membership at the whites-only Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. By contrast, Raimondo’s father was a factory worker and her financial success has been completely built off doing errands for Wall Street (forensic investigative analyst Edward Siedle, who was commissioned to do three major audits of the Rhode Island pension, has declared her an utter failure as a venture capitalist).
Rumor has it that Magaziner might even be angling towards a gubernatorial run in 2022 when Raimondo terms out, meaning Raimondo has a reason to be job hunting.
And with slimy political patrons in the hedge fund industry like Paul Tudor Jones and Enron alum John Arnold, it might end up that the old aphorism about money’s vocal capacity and bovine excreta’s pedestrian skill indicates sympathetic outcomes rather than contradiction.