RI Energy Mandates Will Continue to Harm State Economy, Perpetuates Cronyism


June 13, 2016

RI Families Once Again Left Out of State Budget

RI Renewable Energy Mandates Create Poor Cost-Benefit Value. Families and businesses to lose again.
Local Wind Developer to Receive Unprecedented Crony Hand-out off Backs of Average Rhode Islander? 

Providence, RI — Investing in state mandates for renewable energy, currently and potentially on the books in Rhode Island, will provide an extremely poor return for Ocean State taxpayers and ratepayers, and may only serve to perpetuate a culture of crony corporatism. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today released a comprehensive report analyzing the cost-benefit of meeting such mandates in future years.

The report, Renewable Energy in Rhode Island, is based on detailed research by a national energy expert, Dr. Timothy J. Considine. Subtitled Big Cost, Little Difference, the report’s major findings, if Rhode Island were to ramp up its renewable energy production to meet existing mandates, include:

  • Rhode Island has a relatively low carbon footprint, as 98% of its energy generation is based on natural gas production
  • Major investment will be required to achieve a minor abatement in that carbon footprint, if the state is to meet its existing (and potentially increased) renewable energy mandates. This poor cost-benefit ratio is well below EPA recommended standards
  •  An artificial rise of 13-18% in electricity rates, leading six to eight hundred million dollars extracted from the private sector because of government mandated higher energy costs, are some the anticipated consequences of maintaining the state’s dubious energy policies
  • Four to six thousand jobs could be lost overall as a result of these consequences, despite the few hundred ‘green’ jobs created, which will place further downward pressure on the state’s already dismal 48th ranking on the national Jobs and Opportunity Index

The report also details a number of bills, whose fate is yet to be decided in this legislative session, that would advance or extend renewable energy mandates, potentially exacerbating the negative economic impacts cited in the report.

Additionally, of relevant concern to the ongoing controversy of legislative grants and cronyism in the state, is an Article 18 provision in the proposed 2017 budget, that would give millions of dollars in subsidies to an insider wind energy developer who has made significant campaign donations to state political leaders. The Providence Journal today published an article on this potential ‘pay-to-play’ scandal, which National Grid claims would make Rhode Island the only state in the nation to hand-out subsidies of this nature

“Our state’s self-destructive energy policies represent an extraordinarily poor value for ratepayers, taxpayers and for our state’s economy,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “To make matters worse, like so many other big-government programs, insider developers are poised to profit off the backs of the average family and small business owner.”

The Corrupt 38 Studios Story: Center Renews Call For An Independent Investigation

What the hell is going on in our state? As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been claiming for a long time, the system is rigged.

In a lawsuit just this week, the RI OAG was petitioned to release documents they have been hiding related to their collusion to shut down national climate change debate … and now today we find out that he has created a legal shield to hide the identity of those involved in the 38 Studios debacle.

After a 4 year investigation, the public knows nothing more about the corrupt 38 Studios story. For years it has been the position of the Center that the political implications were equally, if not MORE IMPORTANT than any potential criminal implications.

It is an outrageous turn of events that the rigged system that favors insiders will not release the names of those officials who acted in an unethical political manner.

Even though there are no criminal charges, this does not give the ruling elite the right to cover-up the identity of those officials who knew ahead of time, and deny the public their right to hold them politically accountable.

Today, as the many good government groups called for a year ago, I renew our call for the Governor to make good on her campaign promise to initiate an independent investigation .. not with a criminal objective, but with a political ethics objective.

With the new House Oversight chair also doing the bidding of political insiders in stating that she will not further pursue the 38 Studios charges, the public has the right to know the full 38 Studios story.

Look what happened to Rep. Carnevale when his residency lies were exposed. Those who lied to the Rhode Island people and to lawmakers in 2010 similarly need to be held accountable.

Center Claims 38 Studios Political Whitewash as Outrageous; Renews Call for Independent Investigation

Center Demands Release of Names. Lack of Criminal Accountability Should Not Mean Lack of Political Accountability for “officials who knew”.

Providence, RI —  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity decried the unwillingness of the Rhode Island State Police and the Office of Attorney General to release the names of those “officials who knew” ahead of time that the money designated by the General Assembly was earmarked for the fateful 38 Studios scheme.

The Center renews the call it and other good government groups made last year for the Governor to conduct an independent investigation.

The Center for years has maintained that the true accountability for the 38 Studios scandal was likely to be more of a political nature than of a criminal nature. The political cover-up seen today should not be accepted because there were no criminal charges.

While the Center trusts the judgment of the State Police and the AG not to recommend or file criminal charges, it is “outrageous that they would participate in a political whitewash by not releasing the names of those officials,” argued Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The larger lesson of this debacle, which our Center has also consistently maintained, is that insider corporate welfare deals such as 38 Studios -deals perpetuated even more vigorously on a smaller level by the current administration – are not a legitimate approach to economic development. It is now time for the Governor to make good on her promise to initiate an independent investigation – a political investigation.”

The Center also questions whether all 38 Studios investigations and questioning occurred via the secret grand jury deliberations; whether or not any other information was independently obtained; whether the grand jury was part of the original plan to give legal cover to unethically involved politicians; and whether the technicality of keeping the case open is just a furtherance of that legal cover.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), June 2016: Movement in the New England Neighborhood

For the June Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), nine out of 13 datapoints had new numbers, leading to some more-significant changes than usual… although not in Rhode Island, which remains stagnant. Even where the Ocean State’s underlying results were positive, its position relative to the rest of the country worsened, leaving no change in its rankings, including its 48th overall position. For comparison, the state’s unemployment rate slipped one rank, to 37th.

The three monthly employment datapoints saw improvement, with employment up 369, labor force up 791, and RI-based jobs up 1,700. However, these still appear to be oscillating around stagnation. Medicaid enrollment increased by 2,043 from the prior period, while SNAP decreased by 794 and TANF by 677. Rhode Islanders’ personal income increased $751 million in the first quarter of 2016 over the prior quarter, but state and local taxes increased $61 million over the same period, representing an increase in the percentage of income absorbed by government.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Maine and Vermont both managed increases in overall JOI score, with a reduction in state and local taxes moving Maine to the second slot in New England, or 17th place nationally, to Vermont’s 19th. New Hampshire slipped to 4th place nationally on the strength of an increase in state and local taxes (which may have been a change in property tax reporting more than actual collections). Connecticut moved up to 33rd, and Massachusetts stayed in its slot at 37th.


Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England and national averages decreased in June. When it comes to the unemployment rate, Rhode Island gained ground with both (third chart).



Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism adequate work is available): RI remained at 43rd.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th.

[Click here for a printable PDF, with a table of all states’ results.]

Center Plays Role in Lawsuit Against RI Attorney General for Climate Change Conspiracy Documents


Center Assists National Group in Climate Change ‘Secrecy Pact’ Document Suit Against Rhode Island Attorney General
AG’s Denial of Open Records Request – part of collusion to shut-down political dissent – Legally Challenged

Senator Whitehouse-Led Enemies-of-Free-Speech Conspiracy Cited as Reprehensible

Providence, RI — The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) announced that it assisted a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit, filed today, demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General (OAG) release documents they have refused to make public. The legal complaint calls for the release of documents related to AG’s United for Clean Power, a group comprised of politically-motivated AGs from about a dozen states, including Rhode Island, who have secretly teamed up with anti-fossil fuel activists to investigate dozens of organizations that have exercised their free speech by challenging the global warming policy agenda.

The lawsuit was filed in Providence Superior Court by the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic and the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E & E Legal). Representing these organization are Virginia attorney Chaim Mandelbaum and Rhode Island attorney Will Wray, an adjunct legal scholar to the Center, who recently won a landmark pension reform case on behalf of the city of Cranston.

The lawsuit calls on the Attorney General’s office to release documents it refused to disclose following a standard access to records request by E & E Legal. Today E & E Legal also issued its own media release on the lawsuit that called the OAG’s claimed exemptions “absurd.”

“In America, we must all remain free to voice our opinions without fear of state-sponsored persecution,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, which is not itself a plaintiff and otherwise was not associated with the legal strategy. “And whether there is government overreach or not, public officials must not prevent the citizenry of learning of any agreement it may have entered into.”

In a series of April emails obtained by E & E Legal, the RI OAG consented to sign-on to an “agreement” among the larger AG cabal that is colluding to investigate if RICO statutes may have been violated. However, the Rhode Island AG now refuses to make public the group’s ‘Secrecy Pact’ documents related to that taxpayer funded activity.

Recently, under pressure from pro free-speech advocates, several other original AG members have wavered in their support of the group’s heavy-handed tactics, one even withdrawing his subpoena issued to ExxonMobil, which many legal observers saw as an unconstitutional act.

“We believe that General Kilmartin and his fellow enemies of debate are seeking to maintain a cloak of invisibility over the national AG group’s attempt to crush dissent by those who disagree with their radical climate change agenda,” continued Stenhouse, who believes that every American has the right to disagree with their government and to support causes they believe in. “With our state’s own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse among the commandants of this national conspiracy, it is reprehensible that political elitists are colluding to prosecute those who disagree with them on policy.” Whitehouse is among 19 U.S. Senators who have also banded together to attack opponents of climate policies that are harmful to economic growth.

In June, the Center published an energy report that demonstrated how oppressive state renewable energy mandates, as part of the national climate change agenda, will cost taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars, cause job losses in the thousands, and artificially raise local electricity rates. It is research and advocacy such as this that Kilmartin and his AG group are seeking to muzzle and potentially prosecute as criminal.

Even as Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has similarly signed on with a group of 17 Democrat governors to a separate Governor’s Accord for a New Energy Future, the Center questions whether or not the governor approved Rhode Island’s membership into the activist AG group and its anti-free-speech mission, and whether or not her office authorized the refusal to comply with the records request.

The complaint filed today claims that the OAG violated the Access to Public Records Act, Chapter 38-2 of the Rhode Island General Laws. The lawsuit seeks to vindicate the public’s right to a transparent and open government. The Free Market Environmental Law Clinic and E & E Legal ask the Court to require Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to produce the documents he has attempted to withhold.

When contacted by E & E Legal earlier this month seeking a referral for local counsel to file the lawsuit, the Center directed them to a member of its own organization, attorney Will Wray.

Interested Ocean Staters can follow the lawsuit on Twitter at #ReleaseAGdocs.

About the Center

The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The nonprofit Center is funded entirely by private tax-deductible donations and never accepts public funding. The mission of the 501-C-3 organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Mike Stenhouse: R.I.’s complacent political class

Originally Published In The Providence Journal On July 7, 2016:

Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the nation. It ranks 48th on both the Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union and the Jobs and Opportunity Index of our Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. It has virtually zero population growth, and it has suffered the ignominy of dozens of other near-bottom rankings. Despite all this, our Rhode Island political class appears content not to rock the boat.

When we hear boasts that there were no broad-based tax increases in the recently passed state budget, we hear an attitude of complacency that is typical of the political elite, whose main goal is to perpetuate the status quo, as opposed to making the hard decisions that will improve the quality of lives of its residents.

The irony, of course, is that our political leaders seem to genuinely believe that they have made major positive reforms. Maybe, relatively speaking, they just don’t understand what major reform looks like.

Years ago, when our center sought to paint a more complete image of the state’s jobs picture, we found that Rhode Island, along with Indiana and Michigan, ranked among the bottom three states in terms of recovery of employment from pre-recession peaks. Faced with an obviously unacceptable status quo, two of these three states took bold and major action. One state did not. Can you guess which one?

First Indiana, then recently Michigan, enacted right-to-work laws that provided workplace freedom for employees and that also gave employers new incentives to establish or grow businesses in their states. Since then, Indiana has rocketed up to 20th on this same employment index, while Michigan is already on the climb at 44th.

These are examples of the bold kind of political leadership and major reform that can quickly transform the prosperity of the people and businesses in our state.

Conversely, the meager reforms put forth this year by Ocean State politicians pale in comparison and will do very little to help the average family in any meaningful way. As in recent years, the negative legislation outweighed the good. Million-dollar studies and fancy new names for programs that perpetuate the same kind of special-interest, 38 Studios-type preferential tax policies that are responsible for driving Rhode Island into a rut in the first place, are nothing new — and certainly are not anything bold.

And while other states are decisively moving forward, Rhode Island is falling in the wrong direction. Only briefly out of the bottom three, our Ocean State is back wallowing as the second worst state when it comes to recovering lost employment, with West Virginia in last place. But West Virginia politicians chose not to accept this fate and sit idly by. Earlier this year, the Mountain State became the nation’s 26th state to pass right-to-work laws, also repealing prevailing-wage mandates that artificially drive up the cost of public works projects.

If Rhode Island’s complacency continues — both by our political class and by voters who re-elect it year after year — we will soon see Rhode Island lose one of its two congressional seats and shamefully slip to last place when it comes to renewing hope and opportunity for our families.
Rhode Island needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet — on our own — for businesses, jobs and families.

Instead, our political class wants us to devolve into a dependent suburb of Boston’s economy. We need to think bigger.

Rhode Island politicians will not have the chance to change their act until next year. However, voters can lead the way by acting this year to deliver a clear message at November’s ballot box.
In this wild and unpredictable year of national politics, the big question is whether or not the tsunami of public discontent will reach our Ocean State shores and compel voters to send a necessary jolt to our political class.

RI Foundation Video Seeks to Stifle Your Free Speech

Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?

It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.

As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.

In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us –  that we should just “stop complaining”.

Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it? 

I don’t think so.

It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped. It is further immoral that the Foundation seeks to subvert the voice of the people in their implied endorsement of the status quo politics in Rhode Island.

In recent years, the RI Foundation has turned its attention towards public policy, where it has been a supporter of multiple far-left, government-centric and federal intrusions into the affairs of Ocean Staters. The Foundation has been a frequent and close public partner with the Chafee and Raimondo administrations. It was a major supporter of the controversial RhodeMap RI agenda and it largely funded the related Brookings Institution report that recommended massive crony-corporate subsidies.

When I challenged the Foundation to a debate in 2014 about RhodeMap RI, they refused. When they rolled out the Brookings report earlier this year, they – in close coordination with the Governor – did not even allow time for public review and debate before it was rubber-stamped by a bureaucratic planning board. Now, they use children to ask us to be silent.

How can such a high-profile organization, that admittedly has done so much good in so many other noble areas of private charity, be so opposed to public debate? Oh yes, I forgot: They and other elites know what’s best for you, me, and our families. And we’re supposed to just shut-up and behave so that their special interest friends can keep getting our hard-earned taxpayer dollars handed over to them? Again, I don’t think so.

More than anytime than I can remember, our state government – aided by partners like the RI Foundation – is operating under a dark-cloud of secrecy and is purposely seeking to bypass traditional democratic processes to manipulate its agenda into implementation.

It is your right, and if I may – it is your duty, as an American to remain vigilant and to make your voice be heard – in a strong, yet peaceful manner – against such corruption.

It is immoral – and it is dangerous – when government and its powerful corporate allies seek to compel your silence.

It is more important than ever that our Center should stand firm against such oppressive thinking. We just celebrated America’s Independence Day and now it’s time for you and I to respond as free and independent citizens.

Do so by spreading the word about the RI Foundation’s sneak-attack on free-speech through whatever free-speech vehicles you can … and by considering a donation to our Center in support of our mission.