Two candidates have made self-inflicted wounds to their respective gubernatorial quests. Perhaps it is early enough for each of them to recover from the shot to the foot. Then, again, maybe not.
Victor Paul Alvarez wrote a recent GoLocal Prov story documenting that Mr. Pell didn’t vote in half of the elections for which he was eligible. GoLocal Prov also reported that his wife, Michelle Kwan, only voted once in California during the last 15 years for which she was eligible. The articles feed into the perception that neither has lived in Rhode Island long enough to understand the issues, and that Pell seems to have dropped in to become Governor, as thought it were some divine right. Coca Cola ads starring Kwan and referring to her as a resident of Washington, D.C. also do not help the Pell cause.
Some might think it is unfair to go after wives but when that spouse is in the middle of the campaign, she becomes fair game. Ms. Kwan spoke at his announcement and often travels on the campaign junket with him. The exodus of Bill Fischer, his political operative, doesn’t bode well for the organization either. In an earlier column I wrote that this campaign is Pell’s to lose. He’s on the road to doing so.
General Treasurer Gina Raimondo has her base of support among those who recognize her courage in promoting pension reform. Ironically, many of the public sector employees who should be throwing her a ticker tape parade for saving their pensions are too blind to see the benefit. So instead, Ms. Raimondo took a left turn to woo the unattainable, managing to turn off constituents who were supporting her in the process. Here’s what she did.
The State Investment Commission, which she heads, invested pension funds in January, 2012, in Daniel Loeb’s Third Point, LLC. Some $50 million was placed there in order for the state to meet its 7.5 percent return target. Third Point has been a star, returning 24.7 percent, while its competitors as a class averaged 17.1 percent, and the State’s total return was 14 percent. It was Raimondo’s turn to throw Loeb a ticker tape parade, but instead she and the commission she controls fired him.
The heave-ho came as a result of teacher union pressure. Mr. Loeb and his wife contribute copious amounts of money to charter schools, particularly in poor neighborhoods. That has provoked the ire of Randi Weingarten, The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, who tries to torpedo these efforts. The AFT leaned on Ms. Raimondo to pull the funds from Mr. Loeb’s company, and she complied.
The Treasurer’s office has given a weak excuse, claiming that it was to remove the “beta risk” (sensitivity to equity market moves). The fact is that the Treasurer’s office knew this risk back in 2012. A decreased investment in exposure to equities would normally follow such a reasoning but the Commission instead increased its equity exposure, underscoring what a fig leaf the “explanation” is.
Ms. Raimondo will not have union support since, as the Wall Street Journal accurately points out, they will have to make an example of her lest other democrats follow suit and seek pension reform. Her losing gamble also will cost the votes of some previous supporters who see her now in retreat.