An odd job: private citizen pays freelance firm to write public speech

Speechwriting scandals don’t come along too often, and we’re not sure this is one, but we are the teapot for these rare tempests.

To support Rhode Island’s application for “Race to the Top” federal education funding, a member of the state education Board of Regents anonymously donated $10K for a 10-page speech delivered by Education Commissioner Deborah Gist last month. The board member was outed in this Providence Journal account:

Regent Angus Davis, an entrepreneur, offered to pay for a speechwriter when he heard that Gist was reluctant to tap into her department’s budget for the work as had been done in the past, Gist said Tuesday.

“We didn’t think it was appropriate in these economic times, or perhaps ever, but certainly not now, to use funding out of our budget to do that,” Gist said.

The staff at the state Department of Education has been working long hours on the state’s application to Race to the Top, a federal competition that rewards states that embrace education reforms, and it was difficult to find time for the communications team to draft the speech, Gist said.

Yet, the speech was strategically important, so Davis ponied the dough; Gotham Ghostwriters got the job, and here’s the job they did.

“I have no reservations whatsoever,” Commissioner Gist told the Journal about her decision to accept Davis’ help in paying for the speech. “We have a tremendous amount of work to get done and share with the state and communications is an important part of the work that we do. I’m an entrepreneur, and I will work tirelessly to get private resources to the state when we need them.”

The arrangement was a new one on us. You? Let us know: [email protected]

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