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.

Statement on BREXIT Vote for Freedom


A great day for Freedom as BREXIT Vote Rejects Regional & Global Governance
People want sovereignty instead of #RhodeMapRI type central-government planning advocated by the EU, HUD and Brookings

Providence, RI — Symbolic of its fight against regional governance and federal intrusion into state and local affairs, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today applauds the British people for voting to re-establish their national sovereignty and to depart the European Union.

Drawing parallels between the RhodeMap RI scheme and the more recent Brookings Institution plan, the Center urges the lawmakers and the people of Rhode Island to similarly reject the concept of a centrally-planned, regional bureaucracy that will infringe on the authority of locally elected governments.

“We must have faith in the capacity of free and sovereign Rhode Islanders – on our own – to restore prosperity for our families and businesses,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, as a warning against those who seek to devolve Rhode Island into a dependent appendage to the Boston economy or to some other form or regional governance. “This is a great day for freedom.”

With dismal 48th place rankings on both the national Family Prosperity Index and the Jobs & Opportunity Index, the Center argues that the continuation of big-government corporate-welfare strategies promoted by the Raimondo administration, and partially adopted by the General Assembly, are detrimental to free-market economic growth and job creation.

STATEMENT on Proposed 2017 RI Budget

June 8, 2016

RI Families Once Again Left Out of State Budget

Multiple Special Interest & Corporate Welfare Programs Outweigh Few Relief Provisions
Lawmakers Adopt Center’s Recommendation to increase EITC in lieu of Minimum Wage hike

Providence, RI — With nothing bold to address the massive structural budget deficits, its dismal business climate, or the state’s 48th ranking on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity‘s Jobs & Opportunity Index, Rhode Island lawmakers are once again advancing a special interest laden agenda that offers little relief or hope for new opportunities for the average Rhode Island family.

“What does the average family have to cheer about in this budget? The few provisions that offer minor relief to some are overwhelmingly outweighed by the massive special interest and corporate welfare spending that will continue drag-down our state economy,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Only when the total relief package is bigger than new spending can we claim that Rhode Island is heading in the right direction.”

While recognizing the reductions in retiree income taxes, the corporate minimum tax, and trucker registration and beach parking fees, the Center notes that these cuts are themselves narrowly targeted and are more than offset by the increases in corporate welfare, new Uber and marijuana taxes, pre-K funding, and new special-interest bond initiatives.

The Center maintains that major broad-based tax reforms are required to jump-start the Ocean State’s stagnant economy and jobs market.

Also according to the Center, the continued funding of the unethical legislative and community grant programs, despite the mirage of reform, can only be seen a perpetuation of a corrupt, status quo insider culture.

As help to low-income workers, the Center praises lawmakers for adoptng the Center’s March 2016 recommendation to hold the minimum wage steady and, instead, increase the Earned-Income-Tax-Credit (EITC), which rewards work without risking job losses.

Stenhouse commentary: Legislative Grants – Cheers to 10 Lawmakers, Shame on You

Commentary: CEO Stenhouse congratulates 10 lawmakers who have resisted immoral legislative grants, and rips the public policy culture they perpetuate.

See the video on The Ocean State CurrentStenSpeech3

Good day Rhode Island, I’m Mike Stenhouse with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity welcoming you to our debate series, “What’s really in your best interests?”. Today we’ll explore the recently publicized and controversial topic of legislative grants. Are lawmakers the only people at fault, or is there a larger, more fundamental problem at play?

Legislative grants hand-out your taxpayer dollars to organizations in an arbitrary, yet highly politicized process. When your local Little League or parade receives such a grant, totaling anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, local lawmakers gets the credit for giving away your money … assuming those lawmakers, of course, are in favor with House and Senate leadership – this is where the internal politics comes in.

Much of the media attention has focused on lawmakers who have applied for such grants in a corrupt process to gain favor with voters. In looking at the other side of the coin, however, I’d like to recognize 10 lawmakers in the General Assembly who have not applied for a single legislative grant this year. In alphabetical order, they are:

Rep Greg Constantino, Democrat, Lincoln

Rep Blake Filippi, Independent, New Shoreham

Senator Mark Gee, Republican, East Greenwich

Rep Robert Jacquard, Democrat, Providence

Rep Karen MacBeth, Democrat turned Republican, Cumberland

Rep Brian Newberry, Republican minority leader, North Smithfield

Rep Jeremiah O’Grady, Democrat, Lincoln

Senator Ed O’Neill, Independent turned Republican, Lincoln

Senator John Pagliarini, Republican, Bristol

Rep Sheri Roberts, Republican, West Greenwich

These 10 lawmakers apparently understand the larger “principle” involved here … that the politicization of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars is simply wrong! I applaud these 10 lawmakers and I ask you to thank them next time you see them.

However, while we give “cheers” to these 10, there is another group who roundly deserve “boos”. The problem with legislative grants is not just the waste of your taxpayer dollars, but it’s the culture they perpetuate. It seems more and more, whether it be 38 Studios, a baseball stadium, the Superman building, local groups, and countless other private enterprises … that far too many individuals and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on government handouts to survive or to boost their profits.

Just go up to Smith Hill some day. See who’s hanging around outside and inside the legislative chambers, listen to who testifies at the various hearings, and if you’re like me you’ll be sickened by sheer number of people up there demanding they get some of your money … as if it’s their right. No wonder some call it a “Den of Thieves”.

I say shame on you if you’re one of these businesses or groups who come begging to Smith Hill, to your legislators, or to your local town and city council with your hands out; whether seeking tax credits, subsidies, loan guarantees, tax stabilization plans, or, yes, a legislative grant.

If you’re one of these beggars, you are as big a problem as the lawmakers who accede to your demands.

You help perpetuate a special-interest culture of corruption

You help create an unfair playing field that distorts the free-market economy.

Why does your organization have any right to my money?

You are not examples of successful American capitalism  … you are byproducts of insider cronyism.

This overly-politicized “money” culture is immoral and it must stop. If we are to reform this corrupt culture, it must start with you … the people of Rhode Island. Our Center has never taken and never will take a single dime of taxpayer money. We depend entirely on the generosity of private individuals and private foundations.

Stop seeking government handouts … instead, start doing it yourself.

Stop supporting special-interest spending policies … instead, start demanding broad-based tax and regulatory cuts that benefit all of us.

Stop cozying up to politicians in order to curry monetary favor from them … instead, start holding them accountable when they politicize your money.

Friends, together, we can stop this corruption that benefits the insiders and hurts the rest of us. Let’s make a point of congratulating these 10 lawmakers … and among ourselves, let’s pledg to build our futures, on our own, so that our prosperity will be based on nothing more than our own hard work and ingenuity.

This how Rhode Island can be returned to prosperity.
In liberty, I remain at your service. This is Mike Stenhouse, good day.

Debate Shut Down? Center Blasts House Committee for Passing Flawed Bill that Creates Rigged Housing Commission


April 29, 2016

Enhancements to H7989 Rejected. Misleading and Provocative Language Would Create Affordable Housing Commission Rigged with Biased Members
Hypocrisy from Speaker’s Office Ensures that RhodeMap RI Moves Onward

Providence, RI — It is the mission of the Center to engage in a rigorous and honest debate about important policy issues. Conversely, at least one bill sponsor and her Committee partisans disagree; instead preferring a rigged, one-sided debate, in a demonstrably hypocritical process.

Despite a prior appeal from the Chairman and a motion from other committee members, the House Committee on Municipal Government disregarded fairness and passed a bill that would shut down open and legitimate debate on an issue of great interest to many Rhode Islanders. This after rejecting improvements to the bill as formally suggested by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

H7989A, which will soon move receive a full House vote, would create a commission unfairly stacked with affordable housing advocates and without any legitimate representation of property owners, taxpayers or good government groups. Following its testimony on the original bill earlier in the month, the Center was asked by the Chairman, Rep. Robert Craven (D, N. Kingston), to work with the bill sponsor, Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D, Central Falls), to work out an arrangement whereby the nonprofit Center would be allowed to appoint at least one additional commission member. Maldonado rejected the concept, instead choosing to keep alternative voices off of the commission, which might disrupt the commission from reaching its pre-determined conclusions.

Also, despite passionate appeals and a motion from Rep. Blake Filippi (I, New Shoreham) and Rep. Justin Price (R, Exter) for the Center to be able to designate a commission member, the Chairman allowed the Democrat-controlled committee nonetheless to rubber-stamp Maldonado’s bill.

Hypocrisy? Even the legal council for the Speaker’s office was consulted in a ploy to put down the motion. However, both his and the Chairman’s claims that amending the bill in any substantial way, ostensibly by designating the Center to appoint an additional commission member, then immediately voting on bill, might violate the state’s Open Meetings Act. Incredibly, just moments later, the committee passed a sub-A version of the bill that indeed added a new commission member who had the favor of the bill sponsor.

The bill is flawed not only in that it creates an unfair commission membership, but it is also based on a misleading premise, while making unsupported racial implications.

Also rejected by Maldonado, was language suggested by the Center to correct the bill’s inaccurate and inflammatory language. The bill states that multiple localities are not meeting and have disregarded their required “state-mandated” affordable housing “thresholds”. as the Center pointed out in its testimony, no such mandates exist in state law.

The bill language further cites that “institutional” and “discriminatory actions” that limit home ownership must be addressed. The Center called on the sponsor to provide direct evidence of such provocative accusations, or withdraw the language. This appeal was also rejected.

The Center does not oppose the commission concept and welcomes the opportunity for a public debate. However, it is the Center’s position that it is necessary to have a fairly constructed commission that will explore all sides of this controversial topic; and, by virtue of the high level of research and public awareness it has raised on this issue, that the Center has earned a spot on the commission.

The Center maintains that the commission must be designed to properly debate the Brookings Institution, RhodeMap RI, and the federal government’s HUD agendas, as they relate to this topic, which the commission is obviously designed to advance. The Center also believes that the commission’s formation should be premised on accurate and tempered language.

Ironically, the committee’s actions occurred less than one week after Rob Astorino, Executive for Westchester County (NY), the poster-child for HUD infringement on local sovereignty, spoke of HUD’s heavy-handed tactics at a fundraising event for Center in the Chairman’s own district in North Kingstown.

PolitiFact RI Should be Condemned for Ruling on Center’s HPV Statement


PolitiFact RI Should be Sentenced to Journalistic Death

Once again twists truth to support pre-determined ruling

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity calls on the Providence Journal to issue a death sentence to its PolitFact RI kangaroo court.

Time after time, in defending the status quo, the so-called “Truth-o-meter” has used tortuously twisted logic and intellectually dishonest rationale as evidence to support  what are obviously pre-determined, biased rulings.

In challenging the corrupt, status quo politics in RI, our Center recently issued the following statement about the burgeoning HPV vaccine mandate debate:

“Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”

In ruling that our Center’s statement was only “Half True”, PolitiFact-RI not only continued its pattern of seeking to find fault with accurate and honest statements, but one of Politifact’s twisted arguments was that a “requirement” is not a “mandate”. In its zeal to condemn our Center, it may not have been clear to the prosecutor-judge-and-jury-all-in-one writers that, PolitiFact’s ruling contradicted its own newspaper headlines.

On July 29, the day before the Center released its statement, the Providence Journal ran this headline at the very top of its front page:  “Rhode Island to mandate HPV vaccine for 7th graders.” The article itself used the word “mandatory” five times.

Further, in reaching its farcical ruling, PolitiFact purposely attempted to deceive our Center. In its initial inquiry to the Center, PolitFact asked:

“We are asking you to provide evidence to support this statement. There are two elements. First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine. And second, that no other state has mandated the vaccine in the particular way that you describe.”

As the reader can also see in the entire email thread below, there are three important deceptions to point out:

  1. Politifact itself misrepresented the facts in question, as we never claimed that RI was the “only” state to mandate the vaccine. Nice try.
  2. PolitiFact refused to clarify which aspect of our statement they were challenging, despite repeated requests from our end
  3. Similarly, as has also been their pattern, PolitiFact utilized a bait-and-switch tactic; seemingly inquiring about one aspect of the statement, when, in practice, they base their ruling on a contrived interpretation of some other, more obscure aspect (ie, is this a mandate?)

Pointing out other under-handed tactics, Justin Katz further wrote in a related post in The Ocean State Current:

The brief summary under the “Truth-o-meter” reading “Half True” on PolitiFact RI’s main page emphasizes: “Pretty flexible for a despot.”  That’s a reference to the most weaselly part of Mark Reynolds’s quote-unquote analysis, which reads as follows:

[CEO Mike] Stenhouse labels the policies in Virginia and Rhode Island as mandates. But Jason L. Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, says you can’t call policies with such liberal exemptions mandates. At best, this is an example of the frequent PolitiFact tactic of finding somebody whose opinion the writer prefers and treating that as the authoritative fact.

One wonders, though, what rating PolitiFact RI would give its own newspaper.

As for the PolitiFact rating, there are three relevant premises:

Rhode Island is only the second state to require the HPV vaccine for students. Even PolitiFact admits this is true.

The requirement is a mandate. This is so true that the supposedly objective journalists at PolitiFact RI’s home paper ran it in the most prominent spot on the paper.

The mandate was implemented without public debate.  PolitiFact’s evidence of “public debate”  is that the professional activists at the ACLU managed to send in a written objection and post about it on Facebook.  Well, then.

The fact that PolitiFact considers the awareness of the ACLU to be “public debate” — as opposed to hearings and a floor debate by the public’s elected representatives — is one of two highly disturbing aspects of Reynolds’s essay.  The other is the latitude that it gives to government officials to adjust the truth to suit their needs.  Days after the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity helped drum up actual public debate and concern about the HPV mandate, the Dept. of Health came forward to assert that the exemptions are so broad that its mandates should really be considered something more like suggestions.

The Providence Journal should end this fraudulent, government-propaganda feature.  It distorts public awareness and undermines the political process.

Finally, PolitiFact refused to publish the official statement our Center provided in response to its inquiry:

“The Center stands by its statement. In mishandling the plainly presented content of our research in PolitiFact’s original inquiry to us, combined with PolitiFact’s past pattern of twisting the obvious intent of straightforward statements, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has lost faith in PolitiFact’s mission to “find the truth” and will no longer participate in a process, where one organization plays prosecutor, judge, and jury in often reaching intellectually dishonest rulings.

The vital components of our statement have been validated by the Providence Journal’s own reporting and in your own emails to us. The Center further invites PolitiFact readers to conduct their own independent online search on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.”

PolitiFact has become PolitFarce. The people of Rhode Island deserve an honest debate about major public policy issues, where each side has a forum to openly present their respective points of view. When the resources of  a powerful organization like the Providence Journal are used to serve as self-proclaimed judge, yet consistently, and likely purposely, corrupts what should be a helpful fact-finding process, it’s time for PolitiFact RI to be sentenced to journalistic death.

—— Original Message ——
From: “Mike Stenhouse”
To: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
Cc: “Justin Katz” <jkatz@oceanstatecurrent.com>
Sent: 8/13/2015 7:34:08 AM
Subject: Re[6]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Mark – thank your for your responses, however Politifact’s mishandling of our simple statement, combined with the changing nature of your questions to us, has generated serious concern by our Center about PolitiFact’s capacity to conduct a fair investigation. Below is the only statement our Center will make on this matter, and we ask you to publish it – in full – as our official response to your inquiry:
“The Center stands by its statement. In mishandling the plainly presented content of our research in PolitiFact’s original inquiry to us, combined with PolitiFact’s past pattern of twisting the obvious intent of straightforward statements, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has lost faith in PolitiFact’s mission to “find the truth” and will no longer participate in a process, where one organization plays prosecutor, judge, and jury in often reaching intellectually dishonest rulings.
The vital components of our statement have been validated by the Providence Journal’s own reporting and in your own emails to us. The Center further invites PolitiFact readers to conduct their own independent online search on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.”
Mike Stenhouse
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 8/12/2015 4:22:30 PM
Subject: Re: Re[4]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Hi Mike,
The statement we are reviewing and using for the PolitiFact item is the entire statement we sent originally including the part about Virginia.
It’s the following: “Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
On Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 2:16 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Hi Mark – appreciate the clarification, but you’ve also raised some new questions. May I ask a question in response?
Will Politifact include the aspects of my original statement that you have since determined to be true as part of your ruling, or is Politifact now focused on the “fiat” and “public debate” aspects as the entire basis to make your ruling?
Mike Stenhouse
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 8/12/2015 12:11:48 PM
Subject: Re: Re[2]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
Wanted to get back to you on my recent outreach and hopefully provide greater clarity than before about where I am at in this process.
As you recall, I saw two elements, or halves, of the statement.
The first part was: “Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine.” I’ve determined that this part of the statement looks like it’s true. The only other state was Virginia. Also, Virginia enacted legislation for requiring the vaccine. It appears Virginia has some opt out provisions. Some say this raises questions about whether the vaccine is really mandated if students can opt out. Do you have any thoughts about that?
So the second part of the statement was: ” … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
I now have some information on this. It’s clear that Rhode Island did not enact legislation as Virginia did. I’m told that the director of the Department of Health, Michael Fine, adopted a regulation that actually took effect on July 1, 2014.
This regulation called for requiring all students entering seventh grade to have at least one dose of the HPV vaccine “beginning Aug. 1, 2015.” Also, the Department of Health did have a public hearing on Jan. 16, 2014, prior to the adoption of the new regulation.
I am curious about your use of the word “fiat.” Why did you choose that particular word?  I’m hoping you find this note helpful. Respectfully,
Mark Reynolds
On Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 2:18 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Again Mark, sorry, but I’m still not clear what you’re looking for. You state you are interested in only 2 elements, yet there are 3 elements in the statement you cite, including “without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
Are you asking us to respond to just 2 or all 3 components?
Enjoy your weekend,
Mike Stenhouse
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 7/30/2015 6:56:44 PM
Subject: Re: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
My apologies for misstating that and my thanks for an opportunity to restate it. The first element is that Rhode Island would be just the second state to mandate the vaccine. To clarify the related question I ask, how do you know that only one state so far has mandated the vaccine?
Let me also be clear that I am formally asking you to provide evidence to support both elements of the statement I’ve referred to, including the second element, which is that Rhode Island, as you put it, would be “the only state to do so(mandate the vaccine) by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
Mark Reynolds
On Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:25 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Mark – thank you for your inquiry, however the premise of your question is incorrect:
Among the two elements you suggest, you wrote: “First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine.” This is not what we stated and is a flat-out inaccurate characterization of our statement. Please clarify your inquiry.
I m copying our research director, Justin Katz, so he can monitor your inquiry.
Thank you,
Mike Stenhouse
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: Mike Stenhouse
Sent: 7/30/2015 5:33:15 PM
Subject: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
To; Mike Stenhouse, CEO,  RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity
From: Mark Reynolds, Staff Writer, The Providence Journal/PolitiFact.com
July 30, 2015
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
My name is Mark Reynolds. I’m a longtime reporter for The Providence Journal assigned to PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking organization.
We recently noticed this statement on the web-site for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity:
“Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
We are asking you to provide evidence to support this statement. There are two elements. First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine. And second, that no other state has mandated the vaccine in the particular way that you describe.
This is your opportunity to back up both elements of the statement with evidence such as documents or whatever you based these observations on.
Also, it seems obvious to ask this sequence of questions: The first element of the statement reflects a knowledge that all but two states have not mandated the vaccine. How do you know this? Did you check this in each of the other states. If so, what did you base your determinations on?
Feel free to telephone me at (401) 277-7490 with any questions about this communication.
Mark Reynolds

At Least 11 Other Judicial Employees Already Drawing $100k+ Pensions

May 6, 2015
At Least 11 Other Judicial Employees Already Drawing $100k+ Pensions
Some have contributed $ ZERO $ to their retirements

Providence, RI — As follow-up to an article in the Providence Journal today about three soon to be retired judges who will draw high six figure annual pensions, at least 11 other judicial employees are already drawing taxpayer funded pensions at this level, some of whom have not contributed even a single dime to their own retirements. This according to information posted on RIOpenGov.org, the government transparency website of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

According to information filtered from the interactive transparency website, eleven judicial employees are known to have collected $100k or more in pension payments in 2013. One such retiree, former Superior Court judge Judith Savage is not listed as having made any individual contributions to her plan. Further, Savage is estimated to receive a total lifetime benefit of about $3.4 million, the highest such liability among all state retirees, which would be 100% funded on the back of taxpayers.

Statewide, 13 current retirees are projected to receive lifetime benefits exceeding $3 million: 6 former workers from the State; 4 from the State Police; 2 from the Judicial system; and 1 from the Woonsocket School Department. Two retirees from this group made zero individual contributions to their retirement.

Also according to the data listed on RIOpenGov.org, another former judicial employee, Bruce Morin from the Workers Compensation Court, who retired in 2011, pulled in $172,330 in 2013 – the highest amount among all state retirees from all departments. Further, the next three top 2013 pension payments in the entire state were made to former judges; Howard Lipsey (2008, $167.3k), Walter Gorman (2008, $161k), and Albert Ciullo (2013, $160.9k). Morin is projected to receive the 2nd highest total lifetime retirement benefit.

“As yet another unfair result of overly generous collective bargaining and state employment provisions, the average family is being forced to support exorbitant benefits for the select few,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Rhode Islanders need to start understanding that government is not the friend of the little guy, but rather is geared to benefit well-connected insiders and cronies.”
Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center

The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit 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: Medicaid cuts that left, right can support

As published in the Providence Journal:


Gov. Gina Raimondo’s “Reinventing Medicaid” is not a new concept. In 2008, Rhode Island became the nation’s first state to receive a Medicaid global waiver, and since then many other states have explored ways to control burgeoning costs.

However, in 2012, after a bruising debate about President’s Obama Affordable Care Act and associated state exchanges, the Chafee administration took the further step of accepting the federal government’s program to expand Medicaid. As our Center warned, Medicaid costs in our state have exploded. Governor Raimondo is correct in asserting that Medicaid’s rate of growth is unsustainable from a budget perspective.

The question now is: Can cuts be implemented without endangering the safety net for those who are most in need of Medicaid services? One approach that everyone should agree with is to eliminate fraud and abuse and to ensure that taxpayer-funded benefits are provided only to those who are eligible. This has always been a nice-sounding goal, but difficult to achieve in practice.

But there is at least one proven solution, which our center discovered when we reached out to a national partner, the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), which focuses on health-care issues. FGA is successfully promoting a program that has saved hundreds of millions of Medicaid dollars in states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The idea revolves around Medicaid eligibility. Without proper database mining and detailed eligibility verification for prospective and current enrollees, an FGA report shows that many states regularly extend benefits to individuals who are not eligible to receive them. Examples include payments to dead people, to wealthy lottery winners, cases with incomplete documentation, and individuals lying about their incomes.

Yet, given our Center’s strong opposition over the years to HealthSource RI and to Medicaid expansion, we wondered if we were the proper messenger to introduce this idea to state officials. We were pleased when both Elizabeth Roberts, the secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s policy director separately agreed to meet with me and an FGA executive in March. Acknowledging our philosophical and past differences, the secretary and her staff were very gracious and highly interested in the FGA solution, as was the speaker’s policy team.

The FGA approach includes three steps: better verification at the front door; ongoing verification checks; and public prosecution and oversight. There are certain third-party vendors FGA identifies that can conduct national database checks, above and beyond the technical capacity of many states. With $90 million targeted by the governor in Medicaid cuts, this solution alone, FGA estimates, could save tens of millions in Rhode Island, allowing other critical services to be maintained.

We have been informed that this idea will be one of the recommendations included in Governor Raimondo’s work-group report. It could manifest as a request for proposals from the executive branch or via legislation that requires aggressive Medicaid eligibility verification.

Will Rhode Island try to implement this win-win cost cutting solution? If it does, it will be a reform both the left and the right should readily agree to support.


Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.


Read it on PROJO.com Here. 

Lessons from RhodeMap RI


This commentary originally appeared in the Providence Journal on December 19, 2014:

Will the recently adopted RhodeMap RI plan collect dust on a shelf, as Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello suggests? Or will it survive in some form to spawn various pieces of legislation, executive orders, departmental regulations and local ordinances? Nobody knows.

But looking back, there are clear lessons to learn from the controversial process of adopting RhodeMap RI:

-RhodeMap RI is not change; it is just another crony deal.

While proponents say the plan represents much needed change, opponents understand it is just more of the government interventionist policies that have wrecked our state’s economy — on steroids.

This plan adopts the same delusion as Rhode Island’s status quo political culture: that engineering politically-correct or sociological outcomes will somehow lead to economic growth — in this instance, by following “smart growth” and “sustainable development” principles.

As for cronyism, Grow Smart RI, a primary architect of RhodeMap RI, is funded by taxpayer dollars as well as by the Rhode Island Foundation, a founding supporter of this big-government scheme. While not illegal, these financial arrangements make RhodeMap RI look like yet another 38 Studios-style insider, public-private deal.

-Planned inclusion is bad economics. Good economics are themselves inclusive.

With no real cost-benefit analysis for its recommendations, and filled with a multitude of planned social outcomes, RhodeMap RI has little credibility as economic development, despite Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s professed belief that “inclusion” produces positive economics.

In truth, RhodeMap RI and its social mandates would increase burdens on the business community, as Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council have also noted. Tying a nice-sounding social-equity ribbon around this same, tired, government-centric package does not change the plan’s fundamental win-lose character, where the engineered benefit for some is provided at the expense of others.

Win-win solutions are what Rhode Island needs — free-market policies such as tax and regulatory cuts that stimulate growth and produce new jobs and expanded opportunities for anyone looking to improve their standard of living. Everyone, including low-income families, would benefit.

-RhodeMap RI was not “of the people.”

The unelected bureaucrats who adopted this plan were not accountable to the people of Rhode Island; they had little at stake. No program should become adopted if not voted on by the duly elected representatives of the people. The recent national and state trend to implement policy outside the legislative process — by executive order, by commission, or by agency regulation — is bad government and is not of the people.

Neither does conducting sparsely-attended, rigged meetings constitute the “will of the people,” especially when it comes to an agenda as expansive as RhodeMap RI. Intense public scrutiny is required, including experts from all sides, as with our 2011 statewide pension debate.

Any plan funded by a federal government agency that mandates adherence to specific core principles of that federal agency cannot legitimately be called plan of the Rhode Island people. Though its proponents have continually “Gruberized” Rhode Islanders, they are not stupid.

-What is the value of taxpayer-funded organizations?

It is outrageous, first, that Commerce RI would cede economic development to urban planners; then would further support such vague, job-killing mumbo-jumbo; and finally would represent it as a serious economic development plan. This agency, called the Economic Development Commission when it brought us 38 Studios, should be defunded and disbanded.

That the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns voted in favor of a plan that would lead to increases in local property taxes and a loss of sovereignty of its own member local governments, even after eight of those member towns passed actions calling for a halt to the RhodeMap RI vote, is equally outrageous.

What can be the public value of these organizations when they continually support intrusive programs that work against the very same taxpayers who fund them?

-Messing with property rights is politically toxic.

For many in Rhode Island, our homes and our land are the earned result of our hard work and often represent the basis of our families’ long-term financial security. Any agenda that so openly threatens property rights, and fails to expressly safeguard against deterioration of property rights and property values, will continue to fuel the passionate level of public opposition that confronted the state Planning Council meeting on Dec 11.

For low-income families that do not yet own real property, the property tax hikes suggested by RhodeMap RI would drive up their rents, while the climate-change provisions in the plan would surely increase energy and transportation costs.

It would be political suicide for any elected official to support a plan that has generated as much opposition from the voters as RhodeMap RI has.

Many lessons. Clear lessons. Will our political class ever learn?

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, earned an Economics degree from Harvard University