Thursday, December 29, 2016

Learning to Love Rogue Politicians: Buddy Cianci as a Prequel to the Donald

Buddy Cianci started his career as an assistant prosecutor in Providence, Rhode Island,   with  the murder trial of Raymond Patriarca, the mob kingpin of Providence. 
It had all the elements of a Francis Ford Copolla production.
The key witness for the prosecution testified he was ordered by Mr. Patriarca to murder two rival gansters. Open and shut case.
Then the defense produced a Catholic priest, who testified he was visiting the cemetery with Mr. Patriarca at the time the mob boss was supposed to be giving the order.
Mr. Patriarca

As Cianci later said, it was up to the jury of twelve Catholics whether to believe the priest or the hit man.  Under cross examination, the priest admitted he might have been mistaken about the date, when the priest was shown to have been out of town on the date in question. The jury acquitted Mr. Patriarca anyway.

"He's a nice guy," the jury members of Mr. Patriarca. The mob boss sent turkeys to needy families at Christmas and walked the streets handing out cash and favors to local folks.

Later, when Mr. Cianci ran for mayor, Mr. Patriarca supported him, which meant he had his mob get out the vote for Cianci, who won and who kept his word to the boss to appoint his wise guys to city jobs which gave them control over a variety of key departments.  Patriarca gave away $15 turkeys personally, but he stole $1500 per person through the taxes which had to be raised to support payouts through city government to the mobsters in the garbage collection department, among others.

"That's the way business is done in this town," Cianci later observed.

He went from the anti corruption mayor running against the powers that be to the mob's mayor. 
Providence, Rhode Island

In between stints in "a federally funded gated community" as Cianci described  federal prison, Buddy did a talk show which the citizens of Providence loved, a sort of early version of "The Celebrity Apprentice."

The interesting thing about all this is the people who voted for him didn't take him literally. They shrugged a lot. 
Buddy did for them what they wanted from a mayor. He kept the snow plowed; he showed up at every parade; unroofed the Providence River so the water was again visible and it became a huge tourist attraction when they added gas flames along the river front and brought in entertainers for "River fire fest" during the summer. Business flourished and buildings got built. "Sure you have to pay bribes to get anything done here," one citizen noted, "But the fact is, things do get done. Buddy's been a great mayor."
Hizhonor the mayor

The doyens on College Hill, the east side of Providence may have been scandalized by this mayor who hung out with gangsters, who beat a man he thought was having an affair with his wife with a fire place poker, and Buddy had affairs aplenty of his own; he did not object to extra martial sex--only extramarital sex on the part of his wife.

But the proletariat was more worldly, some would say more cynical. They didn't care whether Buddy was an angel. Every one knew he was no angel. He was a good mayor.
He ran for re election after his original conviction at the hands of the feds, and he won again.
Buddy on the air

Maybe we ought to learn from the Providence experience.
Voters don't care about affairs with interns, don't care about unsavory mob connections. They care about what affects them--does the snow get plowed and the garbage get picked up?


Opening the river downtown

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