[Update: Last week Senator Miller withdrew his name from consideration and the R.I. Democratic Party has named Paolino to the position. District 40 State Committeewoman, Lauren Niedel, echoed my disappointment today in RI Future.
Joe Paolino was the last thing the party needed to generate energy and show that they are in tune with the Democrats of the state who weren’t at the meeting. We needed someone to represent the Berniecrats and the progressives and someone without the elitist history. Instead we got more of the same.
End of update.]
Theologian James Freeman Clarke once wrote, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, the next generation.” Happily, we now have a statesman running for the position of Democratic National Committee (DNC) Committeeman — State Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston).
Opposing him is a consummate politician, real estate owner and Clinton fundraiser, Joseph Paolino, a human weathervane motivated at all times by self-interest and political expediency. Paolino had stepped in as mayor following Buddy Cianci’s first felony conviction, and he had been one of Cianci’s most vocal critics. Yet in 2014 he endorsed the now twice-convicted felon in his mayoral race, supporting the return of the man who had once run city hall as a criminal enterprise. Paolino owns several downtown properties, so this was bad enough just on the face of it.
Now fast forward to 2017 when the highly acclaimed podcast series Crimetown kept the citizens of Providence in thrall. In Chapter 18 we all learned that Buddy’s last big lie to the voters of the city was that he had been given a clean bill of health by his doctors. Many of us had been suspicious at the time he made the claim. Now we know the truth: Paolino wanted to help Cianci get elected so the man (now a friend) could die in office, all the time hiding vital information from the voters of Providence. Too bad about the turmoil and chaos this would have caused for our city, a city which was facing enormous budgetary problems (mostly caused by Cianci’s past corrupt governance) in need of immediate attention.
So here is the character of the man who wants to represent Rhode Island at the DNC, in his own words. The following exchange is taken from Chapter 18 of the Crimetown transcript in which Paolino shamelessly admits to this irresponsible plan.
MARC: Roughly a year earlier, when Buddy knew he had cancer and was deciding to run for mayor one last time. He sat with his friend, Joe Paolino and made a list of pros and cons.
PAOLINO: I said, let’s look at the cons. Cons, you’re gonna lose a lot of money. You’re going to be kissing women with jelly donuts in their mouth at a home for the elderly. I said, you’re going to do all this stuff that we’ve always had to do in order to get a vote and you have cancer.
Okay, let’s look at the pluses. Pluses? You’re probably going to die in office. You can tell your police commissioner, show me what my funeral will look like. You tell ’em, I want to be, lay out in City Hall.
Paolino is an old-school Tammany hack, immersed in the machine politics of favors and patronage. Or we could have the forward-looking, enlightened thinking of Senator Josh Miller, who has been on the right side of every issue important to progressive democrats. Scott MacKay has a good profile at RIPR,
Miller has carved a record as one of the General Assembly’s most progressive members. He was a leader in approval of gay marriage legislation and has been an outspoken advocate for legalizing marijuana. Miller has also supported efforts on gun control, keep abortion safe and legal, minimum wage hikes, renewable energy and environmental protection.
MacKay goes on to explain that “The national committee post is elected by the Democratic State Committee.” Thus, another opportunity for Speaker Mattiello to do the wrong thing.