Ex-Ethics Commission exec. dir. Sara Quinn filed an ethics complaint against ex-state Sen. Frank Carpio Sr. 10/12.
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“The complaint targets” Caprio’s role as Board of Govs for Higher Educ. chair in hiring ex-state Rep. Vincent Mesolella’s wife Donna Mesolella to a $41K position at the Community College of RI. “A month later” the Mesolellas co-hosted a fundraiser at their home “that raised an estimated” $30K for Treas. Frank Caprio Jr.’s (D) GOV camp. “The Caprios said politics had nothing to do with her hiring.”
But Quinn “said that when Caprio Sr. handed the resume of the wife of one of his son’s ‘long-standing political contributors’ to a ‘direct subordinate,’ who serves at the pleasure of the board that he chairs, he had ‘an interest in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties.’”
Quinn “said it appeared to her that Caprio Sr. ‘was running a back-door employment agency, and he is using public jobs with public funds to provide employment to people to whom he is personally connected.’”
Caprio Jr. mgr. Xay Khamsyvoravong “said the candidate did not intend to reappoint his father to the chairmanship should he become governor, and viewed the ethics complaint filed by Quinn … as a ‘thinly veiled attempt by the Chafee campaign to distance (him) from his attempt to raise taxes and failure to pay his own.’”
Ex-GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s (I) “pointed to the filing … as evidence of the kind of cronyism that has ‘cast a shadow’ over the state.” Chafee also “brought to light” Caprio Sr.’s “role in securing” a $25K “legislative grant for his son’s” private school, while the senior Caprio was still a state sen.
“The grant that Caprio won for the private French-American School” of RI “was larger than almost every other grant state lawmakers awarded that year to their local Little Leagues, Boys & Girls clubs and literacy volunteers” (Gregg, Providence Journal, 10/13).
Don’t Forget What He Did!
Caprio “is asking” the RI Division of Taxation “to ‘conduct a review of all Rhode Island political campaigns’ to find out if anyone — other than” Chafee — “owes any back taxes on the interest earnings of their campaign accounts.”
Caprio, in a statement: “How are there politicians who have gotten off the hook for not paying thousands in taxes when government’s held the rest of us accountable down to the penny? There aren’t two sets of rules; our elected officials should be held to the same standards our small businesses and taxpayers are” (Gregg, Providence Journal, 10/12).
Only The Coolest Govs. Are Doing It
Chafee, in a statement 10/10 said that the “state needs to modernize its information technologies to make” gov’t more transparent, efficient and it’s services easier to use.
In addition to allowing voters to schedule DMV appointments renew their drivers’ licenses online, Chafee “also proposed the use of GovLoop, a social-network site for government employees that he said would allow ‘Rhode Island to learn from existing solutions and share best practices, both externally and internally.’”
“He also called for the use of SeeClickFix — a free mobile phone and web” app “that lets citizens identify non-emergency issues in their neighborhoods and report them to” the gov’t (Reynolds, Providence Journal, 10/13).
Some in Washington want to know what the Occupy Wall Street movement “wants.” I don’t pretend to know and — refreshingly — neither do those in the streets, not specifically. They know what they are against — economic inequality — but have yet to begin to define what they are for, why they are for it, and how they might try to achieve it.
But they are out there. There are almost as many protest locations as there are Super 8 motels or Applebee’s restaurants. In Manhattan, the main Occupy Wall Street camp now offers yoga.
It would be easy to classify all this as trivial. And yet, the protests show no signs of letting up. Congress will have to take heed sooner or later. Tuesday’s protests in the Hart Building, I suspect, are just the beginning.
Again, I don’t know what the “other 99 percent” want, but I do have a sense that mistrust of America’s big banks has less to do with the Wall Street bailout and much more to do with this nation’s ongoing residential real-estate crisis. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has disbursed $411 billion and has received $278 billion back from bailout recipients and earned $39 billion in dividends, interest payments, and stock warrants. Roughly $94 billion is outstanding. Is “the other 99 percent” going to jail over $94 billion? I suspect not.
However, the “other” bailout may be driving discontent — in the streets and in the quiet living rooms where Americans fearing foreclosure might nod in silent agreement with the disorganized plea for economic justice.
Six million homeowners are 30 days behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure proceedings. One quarter of all mortgages are underwater; in other words, the loan value is higher than the home price. Across the nation, homeowners underwater cumulatively owe up to $800 billion more than their homes are worth.
Two economics professors, Atif Mian of the University of California (Berkeley) and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago, analyzed data from 238 counties with more than 100,000 residents and found that economic growth has lagged dreadfully in counties with high household debt compared to those with low household debt. Auto sales, residential investment growth, job growth, and durable goods purchases all lagged in high-debt counties compared to low-debt counties.
It’s true that the high-debt counties probably oversaturated their real-estate markets, thereby attracting a disproportionate number of construction-related jobs that have been difficult to replace. But those are yesterday’s economic decisions. Today’s economic reality is that the housing crisis persists, wealth has declined, debts frighten homeowners from buying and investing and, in all likelihood, paralysis will persist unless Washington does something.
You might be saying to yourself, Wait, didn’t the Obama administration start all these mortgage modification programs? It did. The results? Puny.
And this brings us back, possibly, to the Occupy Wall Street movement. TARP is the poster child bailout. Within it, $45.6 billion was set aside for mortgage relief. So far, only $7.6 billion has been spent and only one in four applicants has had a mortgage modified. Of some 1.6 million trial modifications started, 657,044 (about 40 percent) have been permanently modified while more than 860,000 (roughly 53 percent) were canceled at the trial modification stage or after approval.
What’s crucial is that bailout funds aimed at the real-estate black hole haven’t been spent (whereas as those to rescue bank balance sheets upfront were). Moreover, big banks have canceled more loan modifications than they have approved. When you begin to wonder what’s driving anti-Wall Street, this might seems like the bull’s-eye.
One last point, the “other” bailout is of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government-backed (to be precise, nationalized) loan entities own 90 percent of all residential mortgages and is now $141 billion in the red. The Congressional Budget Office said taxpayer exposure could grow to $317 billion. There is scant confidence these funds, unlike the TARP funds, will be paid back in part or full.
For a Congress that’s devoted scant attention to this economic calamity, opportunity and peril await.
In 1971, Marvin Gaye sang Make Me Wanna Holler, which has these lyrics: “Oh, make you wanna holler “¦The way they do my life “¦ Make me wanna holler “¦ The way they do my life.”
No one in Occupy Wall Street, so far as I know, is singing Make Me Wanna Holler. But for millions of Americans trapped in the real-estate maelstrom, hollering may be close at hand.
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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that President Donald Trump's budget is little more than recycling bin material. "The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing," Graham said. Graham had previously opposed the budget over its nearly 30 percent cut to the budget of the State Department. The budget slashes spending on domestic priorities while increasing military spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."