A recent Morning Consult poll shows Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is among the least popular governors in the country, with an approval rating of only 38%. Not an impressive figure when one considers she is also the Chair of the Democratic Governors Association charged with electing more Democratic Governors.
Watching her ham-fisted orchestration of a funny-smelling no-bid deal with a politically-connected gaming concern provides a pretty clear explanation as to why Rhode Island voters are unhappy with her job performance.
As the Providence Journal has editorialized:
Late in June, just as the General Assembly was about to call it quits, Gov. Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders sprang some big news on the public.
They announced the state had agreed to a no-bid contract extension with the company. Under the deal, IGT would retain exclusive rights to run traditional lottery games and provide slot machines at Twin River’s in-state casinos until 2043. In return, IGT would pay Rhode Island $25 million, upgrade its existing lottery infrastructure, and promise to employ 1,100 people in the state for the life of the contract.
Because the measure would go around the state’s bidding law, it requires legislative approval. Wisely, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio chose not to ram it through in the waning hours of the session, something that would have created a public uproar, given the state’s checkered history of passing poorly vetted eleventh-hour measures.
Instead, the legislature is asking the Governor to spend the summer and early fall explaining the merits of the deal. She isn’t off to a promising start.
Initially, Gov. Raimondo claimed that lobbyist Donald Sweitzer “had no involvement in the new deal.” But no less an authority than R.I. House Speaker Nicholas Mattielo says “it is simply not true.” Mattiello went on to tell the Journal that Sweitzer attended the lunch meeting at which Mattiello was informed of the deal.
Who is Donald Sweitzer? According to Michael Graham of Inside Sources:
The corporate exec is Donald Sweitzer, who until recently was chairman of IGT Global Solutions Corporation, the company that currently has Rhode Island’s lottery and electronic gaming contract.
Today Sweitzer is a $7,500 a month lobbyist for his old company. He’s also the politico so close to Raimondo that she sent him to tell her fellow Democrat, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, about the no-bid deal she was pushing for IGT.
“I don’t do policy. I do politics,” Sweitzer said in a statement to the Providence Journal. But he’s being modest. From his days working with Paul Manafort–the notorious DC influence peddler turned convicted felon–to his time at the Democratic National Committee, Sweizer has moved comfortably between both politics and the private businesses who benefit from government largesse.
Not that it’s all been smooth sailing. Sweitzer was political director of the DNC under President Bill Clinton when what came to be known as the “Clinton Fundraising Scandals” began. In the 1990s, the DNC was forced to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable or illegal donations, including some $50,000 laundered through Buddhist nuns who had taken a vow of poverty. The overall Democratic fundraising scandal which dragged on through the 1990s would eventually lead to 22 guilty pleas.
It’s little wonder then that Raimondo is trying to distance herself from Sweitzer in the public eye. However, the following screenshots from this video of Raimondo’s most recent primary election night victory party in which it is quite evident that Raimondo and Sweitzer are the closest of political allies:
Raimondo wants to be a big national political player. Sweitzer is her money man and her entre onto the national scene. If that means his company gets a sweetheart backroom deal at the taxpayers’ expense, she doesn’t care. But with an embarrassing job approval rating and a no-bid deal mushrooming out of control, Raimondo should reconsider her priorities.