Gina Raimondo: What to know about Biden’s commerce secretary pick

President Biden chose Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island, as his commerce secretary, tapping the former venture capitalist to oversee the department as the nation’s business community struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

If confirmed by the Senate — her confirmation hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26 — Raimondo would preside over the Commerce Department and its sprawling agencies, which play a role in everything from technology policy to climate change to conducting the census and overseeing the collection of economic data.

A moderate Democrat who got her start in the financial industry, Raimondo is currently serving her second term as governor. Since being elected in 2015, Raimondo has cut taxes and rolled back regulations to support businesses, often putting her at odds with unions.

Raimondo, the state’s former treasurer, also overhauled Rhode Island’s struggling pension system, which was on track to run out of assets. Under her plan, retirees would lose their annual cost-of-living increases and current employees would be moved to a hybrid pension system incorporating 401(k)s.

The state passed the ground-breaking pension reforms in 2011.

Before she ran for office, Raimondo was a founding employee and senior vice president at the investment firm Village Ventures, which was backed by Bain Capital. She received a law degree from Yale University and earned a doctorate from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes scholar.

Raimondo faced an ethics complaint from an adversarial state GOP that took issue with a $1 billion contract extension with gaming company IGT without a competitive bidding process, WPRI reported in 2019. In 2020, the state’s ethics commission dismissed the complaint, which alleged a conflict of interest since IGT’s lobbyist Donald Sweitzer was also working for the Democratic Governors Association, which Raimondo led, WPRI reported.

“We have serious reservations about Governor Raimondo being nominated to Commerce Secretary,” Rhode Island GOP Chairwoman Sue Cienki said.