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Thursday, June 19, 2014

VIDEOS: Hot primary race for General Treasurer

But the choice is pretty simple
By Will Collette

The Rhode Island Democratic State Convention will take place on Sunday, June 22. My wife Cathy and I are both State Committee members so both of us will be there and voting for the candidates our town committee, the Charlestown Democrats, have endorsed.

For General Treasurer, we like Seth Magaziner because he has a record of success as an investor and fresh ideas for how to get Rhode Island’s economy growing again. Plus, we think he’s a helluva guy. 

South County residents can find that out for themselves this Saturday when he comes to the Charlestown Gallery for a fund-raiser party being hosted by friends and supporters. Please bring your checkbook.

As if all of Seth’s positive qualities weren’t enough, Cathy and I would still be voting for him at the State Convention because he is, in our opinion, the only actual Democrat among the three candidates running for the state party endorsement.

His two opponents are former General Treasurer and failed candidate for Governor Frank Caprio and former RI Auditor General Ernie Almonte. Neither Caprio nor Almonte are real Democrats, and I don’t simply mean they aren’t our particular brand of Democrat, which is the progressive variety. Nor are they qualified to be General Treasurer.

Caprio may be tanned and ready, but he's not qualified. Is he going
to disrespect the President again?
Frank Caprio, you may recall, ran for Governor in 2010 and came in third because he ran one of the most awful campaigns in Rhode Island history. 

His biggest headlines came when he told the President of the United States to take his endorsement and “shove it.” Right after his crushing defeat, Caprio actually disaffiliated from the Democratic Party.

Ernie Almonte was the first person to declare his candidacy, deciding in 2012 to run for Governor but later changed his mind and switched to General Treasurer when he realized he would get crushed in the primary if he ran for Governor. I doubt he’ll do any better for General Treasurer.

Frank Caprio’s term as General Treasurer (2006-2010) was blissful on the surface despite the national economic crash that wrecked the Rhode Island economy and trashed its public pension funds. He kept reassuring us there was no cause for alarm and that he was juggling the state’s portfolio to keep our pension funds healthy which later turned out to be untrue. What he failed to do was insist, as was his job, that the General Assembly keep its promises to deposit money in the pension funds as they were required to do.

Caprio only discovered that the pension funds were in trouble as he was leaving office and gearing up for his run for Governor. He acted like this was a big surprise and that someone else was responsible, and it didn't take him long to figure out who that was. He took a sharp turn to the right and used public workers as the scapegoats. 

He even openly shopped himself to the Republican Party in 2009 before deciding to run for Governor as a Democrat

Though he easily won the party endorsement and primary, the Caprio campaign quickly came off the rails. Caprio couldn’t figure out whether he needed to go further to the right to counter the Republican John Robitaille and Moderate Party Ken Block, or try to tack left to counter then-independent Lincoln Chafee who had gathered support from most of the traditional Democratic base.

For all practical purposes, the end came when Caprio got into a fight with President Obama over Obama’s reluctance to endorse him over Obama's long-time friend Lincoln Chafee. Caprio actually told the President to “take his endorsement and shove it (video).

In 2012, after apparently stewing about his defeat for two years, Caprio disaffiliated from the Democratic Party, changing his voter registration to “unaffiliated.” In May 2013, after either deciding or being talked into it, Caprio announced his bid to run for another term as General Treasurer. 

However, it took until October for Caprio to say he would be doing so as a Democrat. However, I would like to actually see his current voter registration card, just to be sure.

Since declaring for his old job, Caprio has been spinning some revisionist history about what a great job he did last time and is trying to find the right non-specific ways to address the on-going issues of public worker pensions and the 38 Studios deal, issues.

But he can't escape his past. Caprio did such a lousy job as General Treasurer that current Treasurer Gina Raimondo noted on her website that Caprio left more 900 victims owed compensation from the state’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund hanging.

He’s also trying to paint himself as a regular guy and now spins a yarn about how he grew up in modest circumstances on the outskirts of Federal Hill when he is in fact a son of privilege and wealth due to his famous father Judge Caprio. Check out the video of Caprio spinning his log cabin yarn. 

As a state committee member, I’ve been getting swamped with letters and e-mails from Caprio, but frankly, after reading all his stuff, I don’t know what he stands for, other than wanting a chance to redeem himself through a return to the Treasurer’s office. To that, I say “shove it.”

The other fake Democrat running for General Treasurer is former Rhode Island Auditor Ernie Almonte. Ernie is one of the nicest people in the race, a pleasure to talk to. He prides himself on his honesty and integrity.

It’s too bad he has made such a big deal about that because there’s ample evidence that he’s lying. The worst evidence of Almonte’s deception is video of Ernie teaching a seminar to other accountants in October 2012. This was near the end of the Romney challenge to President Obama and Romney’s campaign was floundering because of his gaffes, such as claiming that half of all Americans pay no taxes.

Romney’s famous 47% claim was a lie because even if people are too poor to pay federal income tax, they still pay Social Security, Medicare, excise taxes and state and local taxes. Romney’s false claim contributed to his resounding defeat in the 2012 election.

In this video, Ernie Almonte spins out almost exactly the same line as Mitt Romney and doesn’t stop there. He calls for drastic cuts to Medicare and Social Security to cut budget deficits and poo-poos even the thought of raising taxes on the wealthy. The way Almonte tells it, it's just as much of a lie as when Romney said it.

At the time of this videoed presentation, Almonte was a declared candidate for Rhode Island Governor. As a Democrat. Yet, he sounds like Mitt Romney with a Rhode Island accent.

This isn’t the only problem with Almonte. As long-time state Auditor General, it was his job to watch the books and count the money to make sure it was all there. One of his most important functions was monitoring the health of the public pension funds.

I read his audit reports for 2007 through 2010 when he resigned. In not one of these reports does Almonte sound the alarm about the state of public pension funds. He blandly notes the market losses the funds took during the recession but said it could have been worse. The first time the Auditor General sounded the alarm was in the first audit report issued after Almonte left.

Seth Magaziner: the only REAL Democrat in the
General Treasurer primary
I asked Almonte to explain this and he told me that, well, he did testify to say there were problems when he went before some General Assembly committees. Period.

When Almonte met with Charlestown Democrats, he also flunked another key test. He was asked if he had any experience investing large sums of other people’s money, which is one of the main things the General Treasurer must do. He paused for a long time and had no answer other than to say he sat on a couple of boards of groups that had money.

There are other primary races to watch, especially the Governor’s race. But there is special significance to the General Treasurer’s race where only one candidate, Seth Magaziner, is a real Democrat we can trust to do right by the people of Rhode Island.