Stenhouse joins Scott Rasmussen at NYC Pension Symposium

Advancing Liberty, Creating Change

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity served as a panelist at a public employee pension symposium on May 18, 2102 at the Harvard Club of New York.

“Advancing Liberty, Creating Change” is a City Symposium co-sponsored by the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies.

Stenhouse served on a panel, discussing the true scope of state and local pension plans, the politics involved, and the coalitions formed to promote the need for reform.

The keynote speaker was Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports. He is a political analyst, author, speaker and, since 1994, an independent public opinion pollster.

Scott Rasmussen and Mike Stenhouse

The Ocean State Current to Hire Investigative Reporter

The Ocean State Current, an online news bureau and a division of the non-partisan think thank – the Rhode Island Center for Freedom of Prosperity – announced today that it plans to hire an investigative reporter to complement its existing online content. The Current is actively conducting a search and is now accepting applications.

The full-time position will be tasked with developing and publishing investigative and human interest news stories having to do with public policy and should have a demonstrable related background.

 “We are pleased to be able to expand our journalism operation to include a dedicated journalist who will track down stories that may be of interest to Rhode Islanders”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO, for the RI Center for Freedom.

The Ocean State Current, which can be viewed at, is presently managed by Justin Katz, Managing Editor, who had previously founded Interested journalists are asked to send their resume and an introductory letter to Mr. Katz at

Center for Freedom presents at RI Hospitality Board Meeting

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, presented the findings from the Center’s Policy Brief on the Governor’s proposed “sales tax hike” to the Board of Directors of the RI Hospitality Association this morning. Also discussed was the upcoming “Eliminate the Sales Tax” report that the Center hopes to release before the end of April.

The presentation was well-received by the 25 or so Board members on hand. Following Stenhouse’s presentation and a brief Q & A session, the two organizations agreed to seek to work more closely together on issues of common interest.

The Board presentation was requested following Stenhouse’s popular speech at the Anti-Meals Tax Rally held in March., which was organized by the RI Hospitality Association. See the entire speech, photos, and a post-event interview on the Dan Yorke show … by clicking here.

Special thanks to Executive Director, Dale Venturini, and Chairman, Ken Cusson, for inviting our Center to make its presentation.

JUST LAUNCHED! The Ocean State Current is now live!

Visit The Ocean State Current – our Center’s new News Bureau – at

February 28, 2012

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity today launched its independent, nonpartisan news bureau, The Ocean State Current, which can be accessed at “The Current seeks to integrate with the existing community of local news providers in all media in such a way as to find stories and convey perspectives that might otherwise be overlooked,” writes Managing Editor Justin Katz on the site’s “About the Current” page.

The Center anticipates that Katz will become a familiar face throughout Rhode Island, as he covers events, investigates government actions, analyzes policies, and interviews not only public figures, but also Rhode Islanders with interesting stories to tell.

“Justin’s experience finding innovative ways to use the Internet to disseminate and debate issues of public concern makes him the ideal person for this role,” said Center for Freedom CEO Mike Stenhouse.

Although their relationship is one of funding and mutual support, the Current will enjoy wide latitude for independence from the Center. “We look forward to co-operating with Justin as we seek to expand the information available to Rhode Islanders,” Stenhouse said. Added Katz, “I began by self-publishing and building my own forums, so I’m used to writing on my own terms. Happily, both the Center for Freedom and The Current advocate thinking for yourself and standing on principle.”

As one of the founding contributors to, Katz has grown a substantial audience for his policy analysis and political and social commentary. He has published regularly in such venues as the Providence Journal, National Review Online, and Rhode Island Catholic and was featured in Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation (HarperCollins, 2010), edited by Jonah Goldberg.

“I definitely have a point of view,” said Katz, “but for the core content of The Current, I intend to pull it back to where it will only enable me to ask questions and follow leads that others might not consider.”

Topics likely to be covered on The Ocean State Current include:

* Capitol Hill legislation and related issues

* State budget and spending

* Education reform

* Human interest and other public policy stories

The Current’s website can be found at .


The Providence Phoenix:  Conservative Think Tank to Launch Journalism Project

Providence Business News – Conservative think tank to launch website

Providence Journal – Anchor Rising blogger to head think-tank news website – Conservative Think Tank Launching Journalism Site


Media Event: Report Cards passed out today at Statehouse


WHAT:    State Report Cards Handed Out
WHEN:    Thursday, February 16, 3pm-4pm
WHERE:  RI Statehouse Rotunda

Providence, RI — Legislators, staffers, and passers-by will have their competitiveness report cards handed out to them this afternoon at the Statehouse, but it is doubtful that many will want to take them home, as the Ocean State has graded 28 Fs, 11 Ds, 9 Cs, and just 1 A.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, which released the Report Card on Rhode Island Competitiveness on Tuesday, will be at the Capitol from 3pm-4pm this afternoon (Thursday) handing out hard-copies. The media is invited to attend to talk to citizens as they receive their report cards, or to ask questions of the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. The public is also welcome to attend and receive a copy.

 “This dismal report card represents a general failure, both on behalf of legislators who have allowed our tax and regulatory structure to become so utterly non-competitive with our neighboring states, and on behalf of voters who have been asleep at the switch”, said Stenhouse. “There has been a very strong response to the report card from citizens, advocacy groups, and even from the RI-GOP, which chose to include our report card at their recent press conference as evidence of the decrepit state our economy. I think it will be interesting to see how some of our citizens react.”

The complete report card, with data sources and notes, can be downloaded from the Center’s website at  .


The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity is the state’s leading free-enterprise public policy think tank. Non-partisan, yet firm in its belief that freedom is indispensable to citizens’ well-being and prosperity, the Center for Freedom’s mission is to restore competitiveness to Rhode Island through the advancement of market-based reform solutions.

The Report Card was reviewed and edited by nationally renowned economist, Scott Moody, who will not be on hand at today’s event.


Cranston Pensions to be focus of Task Force organized by the Center for Freedom

Providence, RI – Representatives of several major policy organizations today announced the formation of a collaborative effort to provide research and analysis that may be useful to local officials as they work to design pension reform options for Rhode Island’s underfunded municipal retirement systems.

New! Cranston Police & Fire Retiree Data Posted @

RI's Open Government website

Visit RI's Open Government website

For Immediate Release; February 13, 2012

Providence, RI – Representatives of several major policy organizations today announced the formation of a collaborative effort to provide research and analysis that may be useful to local officials as they work to design pension reform options for Rhode Island’s underfunded municipal retirement systems. Cranston is the first municipal pension plan that the team will analyze. Cranston, one of many localities in Rhode Island which has an independent pension plan, has a pension funding level below 25 percent and reported unfunded liabilities of $245 million, placing it among the worst-funded in the state.

Following the successful task force assembled last fall regarding statewide pensions, the collaboration is organized by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Special Pension Task Force. Task force members will provide transparency data, research, and policy analysis, including for Cranston’s actuarial report and funding plan, both of which are required of all independently managed municipal retirement systems by the Rhode Island General Assembly this year.

The Task Force also announced that pension data for some 1714 Cranston retirees, both in the local and state administered plans for teacher, police, fire, and other retired personnel, is now available to view via interactive displays on the RI Center for Freedom’s transparency website, This website will serve as the home page for all future work published by the Task Force.

Central Falls, Rhode Island recently filed for bankruptcy, and its retirees have agreed to sharp pension cuts as part of the reorganization. The state of Rhode Island in November passed comprehensive pension reform legislation implementing the defined contribution model of compensation and canceling cost of living allowances for state-run plans. The task force members hope to provide useful information that may guide other municipalities to make preemptive adjustments to their pension fund management to avoid the difficult consequences that Central Falls is currently experiencing.

The Task Force members, who will provide commentary and analysis and who may participate in statewide forums or committee hearings in the General Assembly, include Eileen Norcross of the Mercatus Center, Rich Danker of American Principles Project, Bob Williams of State Budget Solutions), and Mike Stenhouse from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

“This task force is set up to get the best economic, legal, and policy analysis on how to deal with a pension shortfall at the local level,” Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity chief executive officer Mike Stenhouse said. “This is a national crisis that must be solved from the ground up through the principles of fiscal federalism.”

“This collaboration is a great opportunity to advance best practices in pension reform at the local level,” Rich Danker, project director for economics at American Principles Project said. “We hope that the task force’s transparent pension fund analysis will foster responsible decision-making.”

“The Mercatus Center is pleased to offer its analysis on public pensions to Cranston as it has to other cities and states,” senior research fellow Eileen Norcross said. “Fixing the structural problems embedded in these retirement systems is crucial to our nation’s fiscal health.” Norcross has done leading research on public pension deficits in Rhode Island, Illinois and New Jersey as part of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University’s State and Local Policy Project.

 Additional bio information for Task Force members can be found on the Center’s website at

 For over 25 years, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has been the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas-bridging the gap between academic ideas and real world problems. A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization located on George Mason University’s Arlington campus, Mercatus works to advance knowledge about how markets work to improve our lives by training graduate students, conducting research, and applying sound economics to offer solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

American Principles Project is a Washington-based 501(c)3 organization. Founded by Princeton Professor Robert George in 2009, last year it became the first public policy organization to sponsor a presidential debate, which was shown on CNN. APP works across three areas: economic policy, education, and Hispanic outreach. It’s economic initiatives are public employee pension reform and monetary policy reform. It has worked to promote awareness of the public pension crisis and proactive reform ideas.

State Budget Solutions, a non-partisan organization advocating for fundamental reform and REAL solutions to the state budget crises, is a non-partisan, positive, pro-reform, proactive organization that is anchored in fundamental-systemic solutions.

 The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-partisan public policy organization, is the state’s leading free-enterprise think tank. Firm in its belief that freedom is indispensable to citizens’ well-being and prosperity, the Center for Freedom’s mission is to restore competitiveness to Rhode Island through the advancement of market-based reform solutions.

Media Coverage:

GoLocalProv: NEW: Pension Task Force to Focus on Cranston

Cranston Patch: Pension Task Force Sets Sights on Cranston’s $245 Million Black Hole

Student Essay Contest

In honor of Milton Friedman, an American icon for economic and educational freedom, the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity invites high school students to submit an essay portraying their views about how freedom can enhance their lives.


Successful essays will discuss generally how federal, state, or local public policy may serve to enhance or detract from your capacity to live the American dream and to pursue a free and prosperous life.

Essays should also comment on a specific public policy that restricts your freedom to prosper and should also discuss how changes to that public policy would enhance your personal freedoms in a positive way. References should also be made to the corresponding philosophies of Dr. Friedman.

Be sure to personalize your essay so that your individual aspirations or concerns are considered. Cite original sources when referring to specific legislation, reports, or political philosophies.



TO ENTER * Submit your essay before December 15, 2011 . Your entire essay, citations, and personal information must be ‘pasted’ into the main body of your email for submission. Entries with file attachments will not be accepted or opened and will be automatically disqualified.

Also provide the following personal information: full name, email address, city of residence, high school and grade.

You may also enter by mailing your essay prior to December 15, 2011, with the above personal information to: RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, PO BOX 10069, Cranston, RI 02910.

ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS * The contest is open to any student enrolled in grades 9-12 in a public or private high school, or home school, in Rhode Island during the 2011-2012 academic year. Employees of the RI Center for Freedom, its PR agency, participating sponsors and promotional partners including television or radio stations, and the members of their immediate families (and/or households) are not eligible to participate or win.

CONDITIONS * By participating in the contest, winners agree to have their essay content used in any material relating to this contest. Where legal, parents will be asked to sign a publicity release permitting release of the student’s name prior to acceptance of any prize. * Prior to awarding any prize, the Center for Freedom in its sole discretion may require contest winner to sign a liability release, agreeing to hold the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity and its directors, employees, agents and representatives of each of them harmless against any and all claims or liability arising directly or indirectly from the prize or participation in the contest. * The RI Center for Freedom reserves the right to disqualify any person tampering with the entry process. It further reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify the contest if it is not capable of completion as planned.


Up to 10 essays will be selected as finalists and reviewed in greater detail. In order to be considered for one of the top 3 winning spots, all finalists will be required to submit proof of school enrollment as well as to have parents sign a release form that authorizes the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity to utilize content from the student’s essay.

First, second, and third place winners will be announced during January of 2012. Winners will receive a “Pillar of Freedom” award and a brand new I-Pad. This prestigious award recognizes contributions by citizens who have advanced the concept of personal freedom for Rhode Islanders.

Winners will also be invited to read their essays, live on the Helen Glover radio show on WHJJ 920 AM; and will have their essays published on the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity website.

Donated products or cash scholarship prizes may also be awarded.

Essays will be judged by a special committee of RI Center for Freedom staff and volunteers.

NOTIFICATION OF WINNERS: Winners will be announced on the RI Center for Freedom and Propserity Facebook page and on the Helen Glover radio show in January 2012. You do not have to be listening to win.

All qualified entrants who submitted their essays via email will receive an email notification upon announcement of the winners.

Justin Katz joins the RI Center for Freedom

The RI Center for Freedom is pleased to announce that Justin Katz, founder of the popular Anchor Rising blog, will serve as an outside contributor to the Center.
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity also announced today that it has formed a special pension “Task Force”, comprised of national experts on state pension and budget issues.
 “What happens inRhode Islandwill not stay inRhode Islandwhen it comes to pension reform”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom. “What happens in our state is likely to set a national precedent when it comes to future public employee pension reform efforts in other states, and may be opposed by powerful national forces. Our task force will provide a valuable national perspective to our statewide debate”.

 The Task Force members, who will provide commentary and analysis and who may also offer to testify at  upcoming committee hearings in the General Assembly, include Bob Williams (President of State Budget Solutions), Jonathan Williams (Director Tax & Fiscal Policy for ALEC), Jagadeesh Gokhale (senior fellow at the CATO institute), and Eileen Norcross (senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center).

 Additional bio information for Task Force members can be found by visiting our Pension Reform page.

 The RI Center for Freedom also announced that it played a central role in securing a panelist position for Josh Barro, a state budget expert from the Manhattan Institute, at the special pension forum to be conducted this October 21, 2011 by RIPEC.

Gio Cicione on Newsmakers (Ch-12 & Ch-11) this past Sunday

Our senior policy advisor, Gio Cicione, appeared this past Sunday, 9/25, on Channel-12. Tim White and co. reviewed our Center’r recent Policy Brief on the legal authority to adjust state pensions as well as our recommendation that the General Assembly clarify the law with legislation that states this intent due to a critical “public purpose”. Check back soon for a link to the video.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity is a think tank that works to balance the policy debate in the Ocean State through free-market ideas.

What is a Free-Market “Think Tank”?

THINK TANK // noun: a group or organization dedicated to problem solving and research (as in social or public policy). As the free-enterprise “idea factory” for Rhode Island, and as part of a national network of state-based think tanks advancing liberty-based solutions, our goal is to develop and relentlessly promote research-based, free-market policy recommendations.

FREE MARKET // noun: the basic system used to exchange goods or services where buyers and sellers come together to mutually agree on a fair value without external dictation of that value.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will seek to change and balance the debate by educating key constituencies until we create a window of opportunity where meaningful reform can be implemented and take root.

Part of a national network of approximately 58 state-based think tanks, our Center is able to draw upon both local national research resources.