Former Providence Mayor Vicent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. has died, The Providence Journal reports.

He was a lovable rogue, but definitely a rogue. He transformed Providence from a washed-out industrial blight to the jewel of New England. He was larger than life, and came to epitomize both the power and excesses of personality.


My prior post about Cianci’s 2014 failed run to serve a third (not consecutive) term summarized his history:

Former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci has been covered here before regarding his conviction under the Racketeer Influenced  and Corrupt Organizations Act.

In his first act as Mayor of Providence, Buddy resigned in 1984 after being convicted of assaulting his wife’s alleged paramour with a fire log and lit cigarette.  (Seriously.)

Buddy had a comeback but in 2002 was convicted of running a criminal enterprise, namely, Providence City Hall. Cianci was found not guilty of 26 specific criminal charges. The only charge on which he was convicted was RICO conspiracy….

Buddy is an amazing politician.

Prior to the federal conviction, he lived in the Penthouse at The Providence Biltmore. My daughter’s Bat Mitzah was held there, and Buddy was in the lobby shaking hands and generally being The Prince of Providence.

McGowan notes that Buddy’s amazing retail politics hasn’t changed, and neither has his political instincts:

Cianci’s opponents, too, have felt the wrath of his sharp tongue. He spent the months leading up to his on-air announcement labeling Solomon a deadbeat for failing to pay back a taxpayer-backed loan that Solomon and some business partners received in 1987. Before dropping out of the race, Smiley challenged Cianci to a debate on good government. Cianci accepted under the condition that the forum be held at a strip club once owned by the candidate’s deceased father-in-law.

My 2009 post described the unique RICO conviction, in which the feds couldn’t pin any specific crime on Cianci, but convicted him of running a criminal enterprise, namely, Providence City Hall:

In the public corruption sphere, RICO was used to convict Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Vincent “BuddyCianci. The life and trials of Cianci are set forth in The Prince of Providence, written by Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton, and later made into a movie. A political character even more colorful than Blagojevich, Buddy Cianci ran Providence like his own fiefdom and was hugely popular (and still is). Allegations of “pay-to-play” and other corruption were rife.

The federal government charged Cianci and his top assistants with dozens of counts of criminal activity relating to campaign contributions, payoffs, and other sundry matters. The feds hadvideotape of Cianci’s top assistant taking a cash bribe. But the feds didn’t have anything specific on Cianci. No wiretaps or video of Cianci taking, ordering, knowing about, or otherwise conducting criminal activity. One of the Counts in the indictment was a RICO conspiracy.

The RICO theory was that Providence City Hall (the Mayor’s Office, and various administrative departments under Cianci’s control) was a criminal “enterprise” controlled by Cianci. In this manner, Cianci could be held liable for the acts of those who reported to him even if there was no hard proof of Cianci’s involvement in specific crimes.

Cianci was found not guilty of 26 specific criminal charges. The only charge on which he was convicted was RICO conspiracy. Cianci challenged the verdict on the ground that the government had not proven an “enterprise,” but his appeals failed. Cianci ended up serving over five years in federal prison, and now is the most popular radio talk show host in Rhode Island.

Whatever else he was in life, Buddy Cianci was larger than life. Providence will not be the same without him.