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Rhode Island's Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks at a press conference in Providence, Rhode Island on December 3, 2020.

Rhode Island's Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks at a press conference in Providence, R.I. on December 3, 2020. (Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

'A Profoundly Troubling Pick': Progressives Slam Biden Choice of Gov. Raimondo for Commerce Chief

"Raimondo has a history of supporting cuts to public assistance programs, selling public pensions to Wall Street, undermining labor unions, and grossly mishandling Rhode Island's Covid-19 response."

Andrea Germanos

Progressives expressed concern Thursday following reports that Presdident-elect Joe Biden has chosen Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to be commerce secretary.

"Raimondo, a former venture capitalist, is the wrong pick—and the American public agrees," the Revoling Door Project—a group that's urged Biden to reject corporate-aligned Cabinet selections—said in a statement. "According to November polling, nearly 70% of respondents oppose President-elect Biden appointing Raimondo to any Cabinet position."

Raimondo, a charter school advocate who backed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the Democratic presidential primary—had previously been under consideration to be Biden's Department of Health and Human Services chief but withdrew her name from consideration last month amid grounded accusations her "record on health is a total disaster."

The Daily Poster reported in December:

As governor, Raimondo has slammed proposals to expand Medicare to cover everyone. Amid the pandemic in August, her administration approved health insurance companies' steep premium increases that were criticized by the state's Democratic attorney general as "unnecessary and ill-advised." Health insurers have been raking in record profits, with fewer people seeking care because of the pandemic.

Raimondo has also pushed for Medicaid cuts that nursing home workers warned would result in unsafe staffing levels—and in April, she issued an executive order sought by healthcare industry lobbyists that shielded nursing homes from lawsuits when their business decisions injure or kill people. The order was later expanded to shield nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare providers.

Reasons to object to Raimondo as commerce secretary, says the Revolving Door Project, stretch even further. The group pointed on Thursday to a number of examples: 

  • Raimondo has a long history of prioritizing the needs of Wall Street above those of working Rhode Islanders—and helping the wealthy donors who boost her campaigns. "[Raimondo's] so-called 'pension reform' slashed school teachers and other state workers pension benefits by 3%, but increased fees paid to Gina and her Wall Street pals by 2.5% and 4% respectively." —Leading forensic auditor and former SEC attorney, Edward Siedle wrote in Forbes [...]
  • In the name of a balanced budget, Raimondo tried to strip Rhode Island's lowest-income areas of 50% of a key aid fund mid-pandemic. "Rhode Island's cities and towns are disputing the legality of a 50% cut by the Raimondo administration in a $12.4-million aid program for 'distressed' communities, including 'some with the highest Covid-19 case rates in the state.' The administration put city and town leaders on notice that it was likely to go ahead with the cut that Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed to lawmakers in January." —Providence Journal

That background is especially concerning given that "the work of the Commerce Department impacts all Americans," the group added, pointing to the department's potential to help decrease prescription drug costs because of its control of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; control over climate research given that it runs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; possibility to "fix the broken 2020 Census process"; and power to achieve "a progressive trade policy" as the department oversees the International Trade Administration.

"Raimondo's loathing of the needy and love of financial power is exactly the behavior Democrats have spent four years rightly decrying in Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin," the Revolving Door Project states on its No Corporate Cabinet website.

As such, Biden giving any executive position to the Democratic governor "would represent a profound and bitter betrayal of trust."

That sentiment was echoed by labor activist RoseAnn DeMoro responding to reports of Raimondo's selection, as well as reports of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Biden's labor secretary.

"Serious slap in the face to workers and to Sen. Bernie Sanders," DeMoro said in a Thursday tweet.


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