Last week, one of Rhode Island’s most high-profile politicians made waves by announcing his departure from Congress less than three months into a new term which he had just handily won this …
Last week, one of Rhode Island’s most high-profile politicians made waves by announcing his departure from Congress less than three months into a new term which he had just handily won this past November.
In the days since, Congressman David Cicilline has been the subject of think pieces that range from wholesale lambasting for a supposedly selfish move to lead the Rhode Island Foundation, to pieces that seem to bend over backwards in order to defend and empathize with his decision. Any consistent reader of this editorial page can probably assume where we’ll land on the issue — somewhere in the vacuous space between those two extremes.
One can hardly judge Cicilline for taking a lucrative job atop one of the state’s most influential organizations. It’s a job where a politically-minded individual can affect real, tangible change for the people they represented as an elected official — and in Cicilline’s case, this means also representing people beyond his Congressional district. However, we think it is fair to ponder exactly how much influence the president and CEO of the foundation has over the large board that makes the final decision on who will receive what funding. Perhaps the connections Cicilline has made while representing Rhode Island in Washington will provide an additional boost to the foundation, and to Rhode Islanders by extension, but only time will tell.
We also think it is fair to criticize Cicilline for his decision to vacate his seat in the very beginning of a two-year term. The costs of a special election will now be burdened by Rhode Island taxpayers, which shouldn’t be forgotten.
At the same time, understanding Cicilline’s willingness to leave that seat isn’t too difficult. With a Republican majority in the House, his influence has only been trending downwards since his glory days where he led committee meetings questioning some of the world’s most affluent and influential tech CEOs, and could often be found quoted in national publications on issues as lofty as presidential impeachments. When he lost his bid to become assistant minority leader, the writing was on the wall for Cicilline that it would be many years still before he had another chance at ascending the precarious ladder of Congress rather than slowly sliding down it.
Perhaps we’re a bit puzzled by some of the criticisms we’ve read. Is it supposed to be surprising for a politician to be an opportunist? Cicilline, whether you agree with his policies or not, has had a scandal-free tenure as a Congressman and has placed Rhode Island in the national spotlight through his committee roles during some of the more newsworthy hearings of the past few years. Overall, he has earned the benefit of the doubt in going forward to advocate on behalf of Rhode Islanders.
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