McKee needs to start inoculating his decisions against the symptoms of cronyism.

How Democrat Governor Dan McKee handled the awarding of a $5 million education-related contract to a group of his friends and allies has been a disaster, giving his opposition a wide-open window through which to pepper him with political arrows, but I’m withholding judgment on the action itself.  This paragraph from Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article on the topic points to my reason:

The bidding process for the education contract was initiated by the governor’s office and after competing firm WestEd underbid ILO in two rounds of bidding, the procurement process was stopped, WPRI reported. ILO was awarded a $5 million contract and WestEd less than $1 million.

I’ll be writing more about this in the near future, but for the moment, let’s just say that WestEd is heavily steeped in critical race theory (CRT).  Adding that dimension to the contract decision brings in a lesson worth considering much more broadly.

The McKee people are not in the main clique of state insiders, and he’s always been seen as a more-moderate, reformist type.  The key evidence is his role in introducing mayoral academies as a form of school choice in Rhode Island for which initiative he worked with the state’s free-market think tank at the time, the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI).

When somebody is fighting entrenched special interests, like the teachers union, he or she has no choice but to bring in allies, especially when the bureaucracy and news media are largely captured by the Left.

One must make a lot of assumptions to hope that this is the case, but otherwise, I find it explicable that McKee would be allowing so many examples of what appear to be cronyism to stain his time in office when he really needs to appear squeaky clean for the next election.  Even in a purely corrupt calculation, one would think a politician could tell his friends to hold on until he’s won the next election.

The problem, however, is something nearly as inexplicable:  If the need for internal support to bring real reform to Rhode Island is the motivation for some of the governor’s more-controversial moves, why not say that?  He could even hint with somewhat vague statements like: “There are controversies in education today that I want to avoid, and to begin the process of truly improving education in Rhode Island, I thought it was necessary to bring in people in whom I already have a great deal of trust.”

The lack of information is what’s harming McKee, at this point.  Whether he’s engaging in cronyism or driving for reform, McKee should have insisted that ILO put together a clear, transparent, and compelling case for its services.  They should have gotten out ahead of the news by celebrating the decision to award this contract with clear and measurable metrics that justified the cost.


Featured image of Dan McKee being vaccinated from the governor’s page.

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