Gettsyburg redux

The Gettysburg Address, Rhode Island Redux

(This commentary originally appeared in the Providence Journal on November 19, 2020)

Democrats seized control of Rhode Island’s General Assembly in the 1930s. Since then, the left has systematically drained wealth and industry from our once prosperous state. Ever-increasing taxes and regulations, combined with overt special-interest favoritism, have driven countless fellow Ocean Staters from our shores.

And now, still reeling from a pandemic, they seek to worsen matters by imposing massive new taxes and debt obligations to salvage the state’s budget, at the expense of families and small-businesses.

This Gettsyburg redux remembers those who Rhode Island has lost to other states:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 


Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  


We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. 

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  


It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

— Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863  

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this state, a new political majority, conceived in patronage, and dedicated to the proposition that all special interests are created more equal.

Now, we are engaged in a great war of cronyism, testing whether that state, or any state so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. 

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to execrate a portion of that field, a final resting place for the taxes of those here who were forced to give their hard-earned treasure that that state’s insiders might thrive. It is altogether unfitting and improper that we should accept this.  

But, in a larger sense, we can not tolerate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this corrupt sufferance.  

The industrious men and women, living and dead, who emigrated from here, have disavowed it, far above our poor power to retain them in our state. 

This state will little note, nor long remember when they lived here, but it can never forget why they left here.

It is for us, the remaining, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought for their happiness here have so nobly reminded us.  

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these departed patriots we take increased derision to that ignoble cause for which they were taxed the last affordable measure of income — that we here highly resolve that these emigrants shall not have fled in vain — that this state, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the state. 

— Mike Stenhouse, Nov. 19, 2020

Media Release: Center Launches Statewide Petition to Restore Election Integrity

Petition to Restore Public Trust in Ocean State Elections
It’s Time to Unite Behind an Election Process Everyone Has Faith In

Providence, RI – Just one week after chaotic national and local elections, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has launched a statewide petition drive to compel lawmakers to restore public trust in public elections. 

With the goal to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat, it is vital to restore trust among the people of Rhode Island when it comes to the integrity of our elections. 

The election uncertainty in our state, caused by a voting process that was unilaterally and arbitrarily imposed by bureaucrats – outside of the legislative process – has divided Rhode Islanders and has led to mass distrust, accusations of fraud, lack of transparency, hyper-partisanship, and costly recounts. The irregular and late reporting of mail ballot tabulations also caused mass confusion, as many races were flipped in the wee hours of the morning, even after some had been called in favor of the eventual losing candidate.

“Free and fair elections are under assault in our state,” warned the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Signers of our petition can make their voices heard in demanding a return to a secure and trustworthy voting process.”

Among the reforms called for in the petition:

  1. End mass distribution of unsolicited mail ballot applications
  2. End the unregulated practice ballot harvesting
  3. Restore 3rd party mail/absentee ballot validation requirements

Individuals interested in restoring election integrity can view more details and can sign-on to the petition on the Center’s website at .

Center Launches Anti-Tax Campaign

Center Opposes Tax Increases Proposed by Progressive and Union Groups

Providence, RI – Already hemorrhaging people and wealth because of its existing harsh business climate, Rhode Islanders cannot afford additional taxes of any kind to try to plug massive projected budget deficits. As the state’s premiere advocacy organization for pro-growth economic policies, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today launched a counter-campaign to the government-union led effort to raise taxes in the state. 

The campaign, #RaiseSailsNotTaxes, reminds lawmakers that raising taxes during an economic crisis will lead to even more job losses, more business closings, more out-migration, a slower and longer economic recovery … and more poverty. 

Conversely, Rhode Islanders can look to a more prosperous future if lawmakers instead take the wiser path of reducing spending, as most families and businesses have been forced to do due to the government-mandated shuttering of our economy. 

Only with more and better jobs created by more and better companies can more Ocean Staters can enjoy a better quality of life, perhaps even able to own a sail-boat. Rhode Islanders can learn more about the benefits of a free-market economy and can take action at the website: . 

With the worst business climate in America, pre-pandemic Rhode Island was already suffering a chronic relative loss of population, below average jobs recovery, and stagnant economic growth due to excessively high taxes and regulations. Our state is now among the hardest-hit states when it comes to unemployment and GDP loss, post-pandemic. 

“How tone-deaf can the political class be? We have been crushed by this pandemic in so many ways, and now they want to stomp government’s boot even harder upon our backs,” questioned Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “It’s time for government to live within its means, just like we all had to.” 

Facing a near-billion dollar revenue shortfall for 2020 and 2021, government unions along with left-wing advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers, have put forth a bevy of proposals to increase debt and to impose new or higher taxes and fees on a dizzying array of products and services, including: 

  • The re-imposition of sales taxes on wine and liquor 
  • A carbon tax that would raise the price of gasoline, home heating fuel, and propane products 
  • A TCI Gas Tax that would add a further 17-24 cents per gallon 
  • Close to one BILLION dollars in new bonded debt, that will force general tax hikes upon all of us today, and also upon our children and grandchildren in the future 
  • A new tax on high-income earners, which will reduce business investment and drive more people out of our state 
  • A halt to the car-tax phase-out 
  • New taxes on deliveries 
  • Increased building and permit fees 
  • New taxes on hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting

Two of the Center’s coalition partners, The Gaspee Project and the Gaspee Business Network are offering action items for lawmakers and voters. Gaspee is tracking all 2020 General Assembly and federal candidates who promise not to support tax hikes by taking the Taxpayer PROTECTION Pledge. GBN is hosting the Taxpayer ELECTION Pledge, where voters promise to support candidates who oppose tax increases. All citizens are encouraged to take the pledge. 

“Political leaders have made no signal that they are preparing to face reality, instead they hope and pray that the federal government will bail them out. Worse, unless citizens and employers step up and take action … in addition to tax and fee increases, these politicians, unbelievably, are suggesting massive new bonds to keep status quo spending levels and to fund special new projects that will dive our state into even deeper debt,” warned Stenhouse. 

If your association, chamber, or business group would like to be listed as a coalition partner, please send an email from your org’s email address to: or call 401-429-6115.

Union Political Spending

NEW REPORT: Union Political Spending – a Web of Corruption

Report Exposes Hyper-partisanship and Radical Agenda Funded by Government Union Political Spending

Providence, RI – Not every teacher, first-responder, clerk, or other public servant considers themselves to be Democrats or part of the “progressive-left” movement in Rhode Island. Yet every employee who is member of a government union in our state is paying dues that directly support this extreme political agenda … along with the corrupt quid quo pro that comes with union political spending.

A new report released today by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity – RI Political Spending: A Web of Corruption – lays out research of union political spending in Rhode Island in the 2018 election and since 2000. The report also provides multiple examples of what it calls a “web of corruption” where quid pro quo political favors coincided with union political cash.

“Most people don’t realize that the partnership between the progressive-left, government unions, and the Democratic party, which has created an iron triangle of cronyism and insider politics, is actually funded by each and every taxpayer in the state of Rhode Island,” commented Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “This money merry-go-round is destroying our state: Taxes paid by residents fund the salaries of government employees, whose dues fund union activities, which in turn are contributed almost exclusively to one political party and to support just one, radical political ideology, who then work together to advance more pro-labor policies.”

Over $411,000 was spent by public employee unions to influence the 2018 elections :

  • 97% of government union campaign contributions went to Democrats
  • SEIU contributed about $150,000 to Democrats, who that year gave the union a major legislative victory that opened the door for the unionization of home care workers
  • 96% of recipients of NEARI PACE donations were Democrats
  • 95% of recipients of AFT (RI) donations were Democrats
  • 99% of recipients of the RI Brotherhood of Correctional Officers donations were Democrats
  • 98% of recipient of the RI Association of Firefighters donations were Democrats
  • 96% of recipients of the RI AFL-CIO PAC donations were Democrats
  • Over a half-million dollars was spent by unions on lobbying and related legislative outreach.

Nationally, and in addition to direct political contributions, for example, the National Education Association of Rhode Island’s (NEARI’s) parent organization, the NEA, alone gave out grants exceeding $100 million to far-left advocacy groups across.

Other specific examples of union-money corruption and cronyism are detailed in the report, including features about union executive and State Senator, Valerie Lawson, and union head, George Nee

The full nine-page report can be viewed here.

Lisa Camuso

BREAKING: Rhode Island DOH Holds Retaliatory Hearing Against Whistleblower Lisa Camuso, Get More Than They Bargained For

Lisa Camuso, her attorney and her union representative, made mincemeat of the incompetent RI Department of Health senior staff who called a meeting in mid-July 2020 to discipline Camuso, a legally-protected government whistleblower. 

Yet, unbelievably, as a result of our Center’s In The Dugout video interview between CEO Mike Stenhouse and RI Department of Health Whistleblower, Lisa Camuso … instead of the conducting more investigations into alleged abuses and neglect at RI nursing homes, the RI Department of Health has decided to retaliate against Lisa, whose was trying to do right by raising awareness about this horrid situation at senior care facilities, where about 80% of all China-virus related deaths in our state emanated out of congregate living centers.

On Friday, July 17, Lisa Camuso was placed on “administrative leave” following a sham disciplinary meeting with senior DOH staff and the RI Attorney General’s Office … to review bogus allegations made against Ms. Camuso in a seven-page letter sent to her earlier in the week.

This is the 2nd time Ms. Camuso has been placed on leave. The first time, following her “whistleblower” lawsuit filed against the state and the DOH in 2017 and that is still ongoing. 

Read the 7-page Pre-Disciplinary Letter. here

The full audio recording of that meeting can be heard above. Below is a summary of Mike Stenhouse’s views on the highlights of the meeting along with timestamps for you to follow along with the audio recording. 

The most powerful highlight of the meeting occurred at the very end, at the 25:15 mark, when Lisa Camuso stated (paraphrased): “I work with the public … I am not allowed to do the job I love … do what you’ve got to do – I’m not going away … if I had any trust, I would have come to you but you’ve shown me you all have zero integrity … you’re willing let people die … truth is coming … families will find out … you’re disgusting letting people die!” 

At the beginning of the audio,  and as a smart way to protect herself from false accusations, Ms. Camuso states that she will record the meeting and will make everything said – public. 

She next inquires why a DOH senior executive, who has nothing to do with the events leading up to the meeting, and who also happens to be a defendant in her whistleblower lawsuit was copied on the July 14 letter and the notice for the July 17 meeting. No one in the meeting can give her a straight answer so Lisa concludes that it was cruely done merely so the executive could celebrate the pending retaliation against her.

Why was the State Office of the Attorney General on the call? Was to intimate Ms. Camuso? 

At the 6:30 mark, the DOH staffer leading the meeting claims she had no knowledge of Ms. Camuso’s pending lawsuit. Either this is completely dishonest or these people are completely ignorant. 

At the 8:30 mark, Ms. Camuso’s lawyer clearly states that the DOH has provided no proof of misuse of state resources, as claimed in the letter; nor does it provide any substantiation of the claim that Lisa misused her time on the job. 

Camuso’s lawyer then strongly countered the letter’s third claim of “Breach of Confidentiality”, noting that Lisa removed all personal information before sending images of the abuse and neglect claims discussed on the In The Dugout interview. The lawyer went on to say that general information about complaints made to the DOH are valid to publicize under a whistleblower action, per RI state law 28-50-3. Nobody can prove information is confidential”, by citing any statute or rule, argued the lawyer, further stating that these complaints should become public knowledge. Ms. Camuso stated she did nothing in violation of HIPPA. The senior staff in the meeting could not cite anything to substantiate their claim of ‘confidential’ information. 

Regarding allegations by Ms. Camuso of a systematic backlog of uninvestigated complaints and a DOH cover-up – Ms. Camuso’s lawyer argued that a good public servant, in trying to do the right thing and let the public know, should do so “all day long”; that Lisa was not trying to be malicious in raising awareness … but instead was trying to do the right thing by the public

Regarding Lisa’s claims on her In The Dugout interview that positively tested patients were roomed with other non-positive patents, along with other claims of neglect during the interview, are the “absolute right” of a whistleblower to make public matters of public concern. 

At the 13:52 mark, discussions about lack of appropriate DOH investigations begins. 

At the 14:05 mark, Ms. Camuso passionately states that “People are Dying”; that based on her years of experience fielding complaints at the DOH, it should be the practice that serious cases of complaint that are properly triaged … would be flagged for priority investigation. Ms. Camuso boldly stated that in reality, by not conducting this kind or triage, it may be the RI DOH itself that may not be complying with federal Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) rules and regulations per the CMS manual, itself. 

OUT OF TOUCH AND INCOMPETENT. Next, comes one of the most amazing examples of incompetence by an out of touch staff. In a prior meeting with Ms Camuso, in the letter, and in the July 17 meeting the issue arose about the use of the official RI DOH “emblem”, or logo, was raised. Utterly confused about how the Center’s use of RI DOH logo the In The Dugout interview with Mike Stenhouse, the DOH staff could think of no other explanation other than that Ms. Camuso improperly stole and then used them when she must have personally created the Power Point slides used during the interview. Said one person in the July 17 meeting, “any fool” can get the RI DOH emblem (off their website) and copy and paste the image in into the Power Point that Stenhouse’s staff created. I agree, but I  object that I or my staff are just “any fool” … LOL.

Next, Camuso’s team blew away DOH claims that Lisa did not follow proper whistleblower procedures, when in reality Lisa could prove she did. Lisa proved that on May 15, she followed whistleblower procedures and directly contacted the Department of Justice regarding a lack of PPE and positive-testing residents being roomed with others, despite the Governor public claims to the contrary … when she produced in the meeting a  phone bill documenting 16-minute call with DOJ, as is prescribed by RI General Laws 28-50-3. I am “disgusted with the State,” exclaimed Camuso.  

Cited publicization of a complaint that was not on the Dugout interview. 

At the 18:15 mark, Ms. Camuso flipped the script on the DOH. “Talk about violating privacy,” she said, claiming that in the DOH seven page letter to her more personal information was put forward than what Lisa revealed in her interview with Mike Stenhouse. The letter, which had been widely circulated, then made public by our own Center, makes public far more private information than did the In The Dugout interview. 

Next the question arose about whether Ms. Camuso conducted ethics and integrity violation of a related Governor’s Executive Order (#15-01). Lisa’ lawyer countered that just because she is a state employee does not mean that Ms. Camuso does still not retain her 1st-Amendment right to speak out generally against their government, especially when it comes to the well-being of our most vulnerable senior citizens … and especially when there is proof and increasing public discussion about why 80% of Rhode Island’s coronavirus related deaths have come from nursing home and other senior care facilities.

The lawyer went on to say the first line of defense for nursing home residents are their family members. These are their natural advocates, their family, who were not allowed access to see their beloved parents because of the shutdowns, even sometimes not allowed phone calls. Without Lisa, who is boldly stepping forward, who else is there who was going to speak for on the behalf of these vulnerable seniors?

Ms. Camuso then discussed recrimination to past employees who attempted to support her in the workplace during the period when she filed her lawsuit. Lisa protected her current “good supervisor” by keeping her out of this process because, as she recalled, years ago how the state reprimanded and retaliated against her past supervisor who supported her after her lawsuit.

The lawyer astutely asserted that the DOH’s actions against Lisa are “costing you what little credibility you have with respect to nursing homes”.

A the 24:10 Lisa began her final comments, stating that there have been “crimes committed” and “Dr. Scott (and others) is involved in the cover-up”

Then came Lisa’s final, passionate plea … described at the beginning of this review.

The meeting ended with Lisa Camuso being put on administrative leave. Lisa Camuso commented that at least this time there were no police present to escort her out of the office like they did years ago. 

Center Applauds US Supreme Court Ruling on Educational Freedom

Center’s Policy Idea Enhanced by SCOTUS Ruling
See the Catch-Up ESAs Policy Brief here

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity applauds yesterday’s decision by the US Supreme Court that empowers school choice families to be able to freely select faith-based private schools for their children’s education. 

The Court’s ruling is a major win for educational, parental, and religious freedom … in that government can no longer place restrictions on a child’s future just because of a school’s religiosity.

The SCOTUS ruling would apply to the the Catch-up ESAs, proposed in a policy brief last week by the Center. These one-time Educational Savings Accounts would be available to all qualified students in the state and would immediately fill major gaps in the five-year Providence schools reform plan by addressing current student needs. 

These ESAs, which would tap unspent federal CARES Act funding in Rhode Island, have earned support the of prominent minority advocate, Ray Rickman, during a recently taped episode of In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse, a new video interview series by the Center. Rickman heads Stages of Freedom, a nonprofit that works with hundreds of minority families.


Jobs April 2020

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), April 2020: A First Glimpse of the Chasm

The unemployment chart from this snapshot gives a sense of the shock that April brought to the country’s economic system, but delays in the other data points that make up the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) make this just a taste of the full bitterness. Rhode Island dropped one spot in its overall ranking to 48th in the country, but that was arguably due to weakness at the end of pre-COVID 2019. Data for 10 of the 12 datapoints of the index except TANF and federal taxes were updated for this iteration.

Jobs based in RI fell a whopping 19% from the originally reported number for December, and employment fell 18%, nearly 100,000 in both cases, and the labor force fell 5%. Medicaid enrollment (as of January) increased about 0.7%, while SNAP (foodstamp) enrollment was down 1.8% (as of February). Because the COVID-19 hit came all of a sudden, the Ocean State managed to improve on long-term unemployment (as of March), but experienced a 4% increase in marginally attached workers and another 18% increase in those working only part time because more work was not available.

Perhaps of more concern, because it reflects data from December, personal income in the state fell 1.0% on an annualized basis (a little under $500 million). At the same time, state and local taxation increased 1.7%, or $63 million.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI, at 48th. New Hampshire slipped two spots, to 3rd nationally. Maine fell three, to 20th, while Vermont managed to hold at 21st. Connecticut overtook Massachusetts by maintaining its 37th place while the Bay State plummeted five spots, to 41st.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI, and the third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell nine spots, to 36th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI fell three spots, to 44th.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.
We Want Our Summer Back!

MEDIA RELEASE: Center Launches #WeWantOurSummerBack Campaign – with catchy new Jingle!


Citizens Encouraged to Take Action to Save Summer
Governor Had No Legal or Data Basis to Cancel Group Fun
Listen to the #WeWantOurSummerBack Jingle here 

Providence, RI – Responding to overwhelming feedback from Ocean Staters angered about the Governor’s unjustified summer shut-down, and who are asking what they can do … the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity answered the call and today launched its #WeWantOurSummerBack campaign.

The campaign, which includes a home webpage and a catchy new jingle, initially provides three action steps citizens can take to raise public and legislative awareness:

  • Submit for website posting, the event or family activity that the Governor has cancelled for you or your family
  • Contact your lawmaker to encourage them to reconvene, and utilize their power to end the Governor’s over-cooked declared state of emergency
  • Sign an online petition to fully #ReOpenRI, as all businesses and jobs are essential

“This Governor’s arbitrary summer lock-down is not supported by the data and was not even legal,” declared Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Many Rhode Islanders feel that the Governor unjustifiably shut-down our summer fun.  The General Assembly can be heroes and give us our summer back.”

Imagine no graduation parties!

The #WeWantOurSummerBack campaign is premised on two critical claims:

  1. The Governor provided no data or scientific justification for shutting down group summer activities. To drive home this point, Stenhouse yesterday published a detailed video analysis of the state’s Covid-19 data.
  2. In April, the Governor exceeded her 30-day limit on emergency powers when she canceled parades, weddings, and other traditional summer time activities. A legal analysis by the Center’s Flanders Legal Center for Freedom clearly makes this point.

Words to the #WeWantOurSummerBack 20-second “jingle” include:
We want our summer back… the WaterFire, the Fourth of July, the Gaspee parade, the Del’s at the beach… 

Recovery for Rhode Island

10 More Rescue Policy Ideas To Aid Recovery From The COVID-19 Crisis

Lawmakers Can Help Pave the Way for Economic & Health Recovery

Elected officials do not have to sit helplessly by and rely on federal aid

Providence, RI – Suggesting multiple reforms that are being enacted in other states, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the state’s premiere free-market research and advocacy organization, offers state lawmakers 10 more proactive policy ideas that can help Ocean State businesses and families survive the Covid-19 crisis, while also paving the way to economic and health security.

With the crushing impact on our state’s business community, and over 100,000 Rhode Islanders out of work and suffering anxiety about both their medical and financial well-being, the Center updated its prior Covid-19 Public Policy Solutions brief that provides lawmakers with positive legislative ideas that can help provide relief.

“By giving individuals and businesses a little more freedom and flexibility, state lawmakers can provide rescue legislation as counter-measures to the crisis,” suggested Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Our political class must not sit helplessly by and rely solely on federal aid. Other states are taking proactive action; our Ocean State must not fall further behind.”

While Rhode Island may benefit in many ways from various federal rescue packages, the Center recommends that state lawmakers must also do their part and focus on what they can control as well as to find a way to fulfill their legislative responsibilities for recovery during this crisis.

Adding to its #GovernmentDistancing initiative, the Center has added 10 new  “emergency” policy ideas to its original March 25 list, designed primarily to keep more Rhode Islanders at work and financially solvent and healthy in the coming recovery months. Included in the 10 new suggested measures are:

  • Allow businesses to fully expense capital investments to encourage recovering businesses to invest in machinery and equipment
  • Institute reciprocal licensing to make it easier for professionals licensed in other states to work in RI
  • Freeze all state and municipal taxes to ensure already distressed individuals and business are not further burdened
  • Temporarily suspend prevailing wage laws to decrease pressure on government budgets and lessen the need to increase taxes
  • Expand access to tele-medicine services

The full-list of 20 policy ideas and brief explanations can be viewed here.

One of the Center’s ideas was enacted last month, when the Governor ordered that alcoholic beverages could be sold by restaurants as part of take-out orders. Another idea of the Center, to temporarily suspend Internet sales taxes, was previously highlighted in a separate policy brief.

The Center expects to regularly add to its growing list of rescue policy ideas, many of which have been implemented legislatively or by executive order, or are being actively considered in other states.