The treasurer’s race may not attract many of the headlines but it’s certainly getting interesting, with attacks and counter attacks taking place almost daily. One candidate has a truly remarkable track record that spans more years than the age of his opponent. The other candidate overwhelmed a former treasurer in the primary and is a progressive with new ideas, star-power backing and a new vision for the office. One candidate is excited and animated; the other is more thoughtful and reserved. Both will push to reduce the State’s hedge fund investments as long as they can replace the returns through other vehicles and in a way that limits costly penalties. Both are pledging transparency on fees and investing. And both think that Gina Raimondo has done a good job and handled the pension issue well.
It stops there.
Independent Ernie Almonte has been in private practice accounting and fiscal oversight for over 32 years, 16 of them as the Auditor General for the State of RI, which is the legislative audit agency for the General Assembly. Here he was responsible for the $7 billion comprehensive audit report for the state, conducting an annual $3 billion federal audit as well as providing oversight of municipal, fraud and quasi-public agency audits. In short he has provided guidance, advice and oversight for virtually all of the State’s financial issues. He has never served in an elected office.
Seth Magaziner graduated from Brown in 2006, Taught for America in Louisiana, got an MBA from Yale, interned at Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s Point Judith Capital, before joining Trillium Asset Management in 2010 where he rose from an analyst to a vice president.
Trillium, based in Boston, is the oldest investment advisor exclusively focused on sustainable and responsible investing. According to Magaziner, he was involved with investments in the banking, financial and energy sectors. He has built his campaign around a 20-page “Blueprint for Rhode Island” that will expand the Treasurer’s office into an engine for economic development. And, he too has never held elected office.
In terms of experience, general treasurer candidate Ernie Almonte is the ‘real deal.’ “The treasurer’s job isn’t an entry level job,” Almonte suggests. “I don’t need on-the-job training. I’m ready to go to work day one. The treasurer is the CFO for the state and is responsible for the ‘people’s money’ and it must be handled with properly and with great transparency.”
Almonte is passionate and excited when he talks about all of the things that the treasurer’s office can do for Rhode Island’s economy by helping to create opportunities for young people to stay and for new business to be attracted to a state that they can be confident is managed well. As an Independent, he promises he won’t serve either party and ticks off his four priorities: make the pension plan solvent, eliminate fraud and waste, strengthen the finances of all cities and towns and promote financial literacy for students, seniors and all residents.
Almonte’s long list of achievements in the financial arena are impressive. He has served as president of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs and became the first public servant to be elected national chairman for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). He now serves as chairman of the AICPA’s National Financial Literacy Commission. He has served for the past three years as chairman of the U.S. Department of Defense Audit Committee, a role appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. He has also chaired the RI Clean Water Finance Agency that had authority for issuing millions of dollars worth of bonds.
These achievements have resulted in his being named by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession, and he completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government and Innovations in Governance.
In 2011, he founded the Almonte Group LLC, a full service accounting firm providing tax, audit, anti-fraud, expert witness testimony, forensic accounting and consulting services. He also serves as president of government services and chairman of the board for Virtual DBS in North Kingstown and he is an adjunct professor at Brown University.
He graduated from Johnston High School and Bryant University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in taxation. He and his wife Kathy have five children and live in Scituate.
Seth Magaziner grew up with politics. In the early 1990s his father, Ira, worked with Hillary Clinton on a famously unsuccessful attempt to reform the nation’s health care system. He later became President Bill Clinton’s internet czar and now chairs the ex-president’s foundation. Clinton recently returned the favor by holding a fundraiser for his son that was attended by over 300 people. (Ironically, the last time Clinton campaigned in RI it had been for Magaziner’s primary opponent, Frank Caprio.)
Seth Magaziner grew up in Bristol and attended Brown where he was president of the Brown College Democrats, as well as a member of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. He went on to get his MBA at Yale. After graduating in 2006, Magaziner spent two years teaching Louisiana children that Hurricane Katrina had made homeless. He also spent two years as a summer intern at Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s venture capital firm Point Judith Capital. He has been with Trillium Asset Management, the oldest investment advisory company exclusively focused on sustainable and responsible investing for the past three years. In November of 2013, according to CFO Journal, he was an analyst at Trillium and was quoted, “As an analyst your motto is question everything.”
Magaziner believes that what he brings to the race will resonate with voters. “People want new faces,” he notes. “They want new ideas and new approaches. My blueprint gives that. This office can be a job creator with new ideas and a new focus. I may be younger, but I’ve got more relevant experience,” he adds.
Magaziner’s campaign is based on broadening the treasurer’s reach. His blueprint is a comprehensive economic development plan, endorsed by both business and labor leaders. In addition to jobs and economic growth, his platform includes investing in Rhode Island with taxpayer dollars; insuring secure retirement for Rhode Island current and retired public servants; providing financial empowerment for the 25% of Rhode Islanders who don’t have bank accounts or rely on payday lending and pawn shops; supporting education initiatives to rebuild crumbling schools to insure equality and opportunity among our students.
Magaziner lives in downtown Providence and serves on the boards of Crossroads RI and Serve RI. He was the treasurer of the campaign for marriage equality and is a board member of Common Cause and the Bristol 4th of July Committee.