Buddy Cianci

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Vincent A. Cianci, Jr.
Buddy Cianci 4 July 2009 Bristol RI.jpg
Cianci at the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in 2009
32nd & 34th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
In office
January 7, 1991 – September 6, 2002
Preceded by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr.
Succeeded by John J. Lombardi
In office
January 7, 1975 – April 25, 1984
Preceded by Joseph A. Doorley
Succeeded by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1941-04-30) April 30, 1941 (age 74)
Cranston, Rhode Island
Political party Republican (1974–Dec. 1982)
Independent (Jan. 1983–present)
Residence Providence, Rhode Island
Alma mater Fairfield, B.A.
Villanova, M.A.
Marquette, J.D.
Religion Roman Catholic
Website http://www.buddycianci.com

Vincent Albert "Buddy" Cianci, Jr. (/siˈænsi/, see-AN-see; Italian pronunciation: [ˈtʃaŋtʃi], CHAHN-chee; born April 30, 1941) is an American lawyer, convicted felon, conservative radio talk show host, politician and political commentator who served as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002. Cianci is the longest-serving mayor of Providence, and one of the longest-serving "big city" mayors in United States history, having held office for over 21 years.

Twice elected Mayor of Providence, he also served as a prosecutor and attorney. Notably, he was forced to resign from office twice due to felony convictions. His first administration ended in 1984 when he pleaded nolo contendere to charges brought against him. His second stint as mayor ended when he was forced to resign following his conviction for one count of racketeering conspiracy, and he served four years in federal prison.[1]

Cianci was first elected mayor as the candidate of the Republican Party. While in office he declared himself an independent, and as of 2009 he said he had no party affiliation.[1] In June 2014, Cianci announced, on his radio show, that he would run for mayor again. He was defeated by Democratic candidate Jorge Elorza.

Family and early life[edit]

Cianci was born on Wednesday, April 30, 1941, in Providence. His family lived in Cranston, Rhode Island, where he grew up in the Laurel Hill section of the town. He is the youngest child of Dr. Vincent A. Cianci and Esther née Capobianco Cianci (her great-grandfather served as mayor of Benevento, Italy[2]), who had two children and whom were married in 1937. Cianci has an older sister named Carol. Cianci's paternal grandfather Pietro, a carpenter who emigrated from Roccamonfina, Italy in 1896, married Carmella Cianci. They had 13 children, of which Cianci's father was born in 1900. Cianci's maternal great-grandfather, Nicolo, was an active member of the Democratic Committee in Providence's Fourth Ward.

Cianci would marry twice. First in 1973 to Sheila Bentley McKenna. The couple would later divorce in 1983. Cianci and Bentley McKenna would have one daughter, the late Nicole B., who passed in April 2012. Cianci has three grandchildren: Olivia, Joseph and Julius.

Education and military service[edit]

At the age of seven, Cianci had already begun his radio career, appearing regularly on WJAR’s Kiddie Revue, broadcast every Sunday from the Outlet Department Store on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence.[2] After a brief experience in public school, Cianci attended the Moses Brown School on the east-side of Providence, where he would be roommates with Adrian Hendricks, the first black student allowed to attend the prestigious school. After graduation, Cianci would go on to earn a bachelor's degree in government at Fairfield University. He would later receive a master's degree in Political Science at Villanova University, and a law degree at Marquette University Law School in 1966.[3] Cianci holds honorary Doctorate degrees in Public Service awarded by his alma mater, Fairfield University; Doctor of Business Administration degree from Johnson & Wales University; Doctor of Law degree from Roger Williams University; and most recently, a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Southern New England School of Law.[4]

He enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 29, 1966 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Military Police Corps on April 24, 1967. He served on active duty until 1969 and then in the Army Reserve as a civil affairs officer through 1972.[5]

Early legal career[edit]

Admitted to the Rhode Island bar in 1967, Cianci was appointed a special assistant attorney general in 1969. In 1973, he became the prosecutor of the Rhode Island Attorney General's Anti-Corruption Strike Force, a position he held until his first election as Mayor in 1974.

Mayor of Providence, 1974-1984[edit]

In the fall of 1974, Cianci narrowly beat incumbent Mayor Joseph Doorley on an anti-corruption campaign. Cianci was aided in his win by a revolt of some Democrats who were upset with Doorley's administration. He was the city's first Italian-American mayor, ending a 150-year "power monopoly" held by Irish Democrats. Cianci was also the youngest man elected to the office at age 33, and the first Republican Mayor since the Great Depression. Cianci was well known as an extremely charismatic and media-savvy politician. His propensity to attend parades, weddings, public events, and backyard neighborhood barbecues led to a common joke during his tenure that Cianci would jump to attend the opening of an envelope. Cianci was revered by many residents of Providence, and credited with the revitalizing of the city's economy and image.

During his first tenure in office, Cianci and his allies on the Providence City Council clashed with the anti-Cianci majority on almost every issue, the budget being the most heated one. In the mid to late 1970s, Cianci found himself as a rising star in the national Republican Party. After being introduced by Bob Dole, Cianci made an address at the 1976 Republican convention. There was talk of him being the first Italian-American vice president. Cianci was also seriously considered for a federal Cabinet seat in the prospective Gerald Ford administration, had Ford been elected in 1976. After Ford's loss to Jimmy Carter, Cianci tried to promote himself as a Senate candidate, in an attempt to expand the Republican Party's ethnic votership. Cianci clashed behind the scenes with John Chafee, who he actively lobbied to step aside from his Senate run so Cianci could get the Republican nomination instead. Chafee was elected to the Senate in 1976 and Cianci was re-elected as Mayor of Providence as a Republican in 1978.

Cianci ran for governor in 1980, losing out to incumbent J. Joseph Garrahy. After this loss, Cianci drifted away from the Republican Party. In 1982 he was re-elected as an Independent.

First resignation[edit]

Cianci was forced by law to resign from office for the first time in 1984 after pleading Nolo contendere or "no contest" - neither admitting nor disputing - on an assault charge alleging an altercation with Bristol, Rhode Island contractor, Raymond DeLeo.[6] Cianci claimed that the man had been romantically involved with his wife, from whom Cianci was separated at the time. Both the man and Cianci's estranged wife disputed the relationship. Providence municipal regulations prohibit a convicted felon from holding public office; ironically, Cianci himself promulgated the rule a few years earlier.

After Cianci's resignation, a special election was held to name a replacement. Cianci attempted to run in the election under the rubric that he had been convicted of a felony but received a five-year suspended sentence rather than being sent to prison. After a few weeks it was decided by the Rhode Island Supreme Court that Cianci could not run in the special election because the legislative intent was that the convicted incumbent could not succeed himself in office. The special election was won by City Council Chairman and Acting Mayor Joseph R. Paolino, Jr.


Cianci spent the next few years as a radio talk show host on Providence AM station 920 WHJJ and as a television commentator. In 1990 he successfully mounted a re-election campaign with the slogan, "He never stopped caring about Providence."

Mayor of Providence, 1991-2002[edit]

It was during Cianci's second run as mayor, beginning in 1991, that the city of Providence entered its "Renaissance phase."[citation needed]

During his tenure, Providence became visibly cleaner and more tourist-friendly. Cianci brought the Providence Bruins hockey team to Rhode Island from Maine, and pushed to further several projects in the city, including a new train station near the State House, new hotels, the Providence Place shopping mall, and the Fleet Skating Center.[7] He also helped to orchestrate the establishment of the summer weekend festivals known as Waterfire in downtown Providence, which continues to bring up to 100,000 people to the downtown area alone on the summer nights it takes place.

In 1998 Cianci ran again for re-election, unopposed on the ballot. The popular Cianci had never lost a mayoral election, until losing to Jorge Elorza in November 2014.

Operation Plunder Dome[edit]

Cianci was indicted in April 2001 on federal criminal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering, and mail fraud. Several other Providence city officials were also indicted. Judge Ronald R. Lagueux said of the case: "Clearly, there is a feeling in city government in Providence that corruption is tolerated. In this mayor's two administrations, there has been more corruption in the City of Providence than in the history of this state."[8]

Much of the trial was focused around a video tape showing top Cianci aide Frank A. Corrente (the City's Director of Administration) taking a bribe. Jim Taricani, a reporter who aired the tape on local television station WJAR, was sentenced to six months of house arrest for refusing to reveal his sources to the court. Rather than maintaining a low profile after the indictment, Cianci poked fun at the investigation, code-named "Operation Plunder Dome". Nine people (including Cianci) were convicted in the trials, which were presided over by Judge Ernest C. Torres. Cianci was acquitted of 26 of 27 charges, including bribery, extortion, and mail fraud. He was, however, found guilty of a single charge of racketeering conspiracy (running a corrupt criminal enterprise).

He had been planning on running for a seventh term in 2002, and at the time of his conviction was again unopposed.

Federal incarceration[edit]

In September 2002, Cianci was sentenced to serve five years in federal prison by Judge Torres, who opted for a higher sentence than the minimum required by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Cianci was forced by law to resign immediately following the sentencing. Between his sentencing and the start of his jail term, Cianci resumed his radio career hosting a midday show with former Providence radio host (and former director of communications to Governor Don Carcieri) Steve Kass on AM talk station WPRO. After some legal wrangling, Cianci's lawyers managed to have him sent to prison closer to Rhode Island, and Cianci served his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix, in Burlington County, New Jersey. Cianci appealed the conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit[9] but was unsuccessful. In August 2005, Cianci made a request for early release, but was denied.


Cianci was released from prison on May 30, 2007, to a halfway house near Northeastern University[10] in Boston. A noticeable difference in Cianci's appearance was that he had embraced his bald head, and no longer wore a hairpiece. Initially, Cianci wore the toupee at the halfway house while he worked in Providence. Upon his return one evening, he sat and ate with two other residents of the halfway house, and asked them about his famous toupee. The other residents, identified as "Dave" and "Anthony" encouraged him to "Ditch the toupee and be himself." The next day, it was history. His sentence formally ended on July 28, 2007, and he was moved to home confinement. In numerous interviews after his release, Cianci maintained his innocence, continuously stating the one charge he was found guilty of was basically being the "captain of the ship."

Upon his initial release from federal prison, he had already secured a job in marketing and sales for the XV Beacon, a luxury hotel in Boston. However, he ultimately chose to return to Rhode Island and began work at the 903 Residences in Providence.[11]

Political Commentator[edit]

On September 20, 2007, Cianci returned to the airwaves on local Providence AM radio station WPRO, hosting a weekday talk show. He said that he had no plans to run for political office again, although he had not entirely ruled it out when pressed on the issue.[12] On October 24, 2007, Cianci appeared on WLNE-TV ABC6 to announce that in addition to his radio show, he was joining the television station as chief political analyst and contributing editor. The work included moderating a weekly political segment called Your Attention Please, which was renamed Buddy TV. The timeslot became a daily segment in July 2008, and is currently The World According to Buddy as of May 2011. His position at WLNE began on November 1, 2007. Cianci also hosts the station's weekend public affairs program On the Record with Buddy Cianci. He began in October 2008 as co-host of the program with WLNE weeknight anchor John DeLuca and became solo host in May 2011.

2014 campaign for Mayor of Providence[edit]

Cianci became eligible to run for mayor again in the year 2012, three years after his probation ended (due to the provisions of the 1986 Rhode Island constitutional amendment, aptly named "the Buddy amendment").[12] The next election in which Cianci would be eligible to run is the November 2014. In 2010, Cianci was quoted as saying that he was "taking a good look" at running for the U.S. House seat to be vacated by Democrat Patrick J. Kennedy.[1] He did not declare his candidacy.

In January 2014, Cianci was diagnosed with colon cancer.[13] In May, Cianci, after being successfully treated for cancer, was cleared by his doctors to run for mayor in the 2014 November election.[14] On June 25, Cianci declared his candidacy for Mayor of Providence as an independent. On November 4, Cianci conceded the mayoral election to Democrat Jorge Elorza.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

  • BUDDY—The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Mayor, a documentary directed by Cherry Arnold and narrated by James Woods.[16]
  • The Prince of Providence, a book by Mike Stanton (ISBN 0-375-50780-9) details Cianci's life, from childhood, to mob-busting prosecutor, to mayor, to conviction.
  • Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Advised a President, Dined with Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community, and Lived to Tell the Tale, a book by Vincent "Buddy" Cianci with David Fisher (ISBN 978-0312592806), is Cianci's memoir.
  • "Buddy" Cianci: The Musical, an off-Broadway musical created by Jonathan Van Gieson and Mike Tarantino.[17] The musical incorporates much of the material from The Prince of Providence.[citation needed]
  • On the animated sitcom Family Guy (set in Rhode Island), Chris attended Buddy Cianci Junior High School. One episode was titled "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High".
  • He has made guest appearances as himself on the television show Providence.[18]
  • He has a brand of tomato sauce, "Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce." The sauce promised that sales are "Benefiting Providence School Children" and have helped hundreds of students attend college.[19] However, an August 2014 Associated Press report found that "in recent years, no money from the sauce's sales has been donated to Cianci's charity scholarship fund, The Associated Press has learned. From 2009 to 2012, the sauce made a total of $3 in income, longtime Cianci adviser Charles Mansolillo told the AP. In 2009, they lost $2,200 on the sauce, Mansolillo said. The following year, they made $2,974, while in 2011, they lost $2,969. In 2012, they made $2,198 profit, he said. That adds up to a profit of just $3 during the 4-year period." [20]
  • Local Providence Rap Artist, Zumo Kollie released a song titled "Buddy Cianci" on Election Day, November 4, 2014.[21]


  1. ^ a b c Marcelo, Philip (January 11, 2010), "Cianci says he may run again", The Providence Journal, retrieved 2010-01-11 
  2. ^ a b http://www.denverpost.com/ci_17797372
  3. ^ http://www.buddycianci.com
  4. ^ http://www.buddycianci.com/bio.php
  5. ^ Army Register, 1969. Vol. 2.
  6. ^ http://www.providencephoenix.com/features/top/multi/documents/03063585.asp
  7. ^ Mike Stanton, "Zorba the mayor", The Providence Journal, December 13, 2002. Accessed January 15, 2008.
  8. ^ Dan Barry, "Buddy for Life", The New York Times, December 31, 2000. Accessed January 15, 2008.
  9. ^ U.S. v. Cianci, 378 F.3d 71 (2004)
  10. ^ Michelle R. Smith, "Cianci arrives at Boston halfway house after release from prison", Boston.com, May 30, 2007. Accessed January 15, 2008.
  11. ^ Raja Mishra, "Cianci snubs Boston for job in R.I.", The Boston Globe, June 9, 2007. Accessed January 15, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Joe Vileno, "Buddy Cianci", The Phoenix, September 24, 2007. Accessed January 15, 2008.
  13. ^ http://wpri.com/2014/02/03/cianci-back-to-work-after-cancer-diagnosis/
  14. ^ "Doctors Clear Buddy Cianci to Run for Mayor if He Wants", ABC 6, May 6, 2014. Accessed May 8, 2014.
  15. ^ http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2014/11/04/jorge-elorza-defeats-buddy-cianci-providence-mayoral-race/iiu8GpgXBGLqBHAfvTyxgN/story.html
  16. ^ Buddy (2005) at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ "Buddy" Cianci: The Musical, NYTheatre.com
  18. ^ "Taste of Providence" at the Internet Movie Database
  19. ^ http://www.buddycianci.com/marinara.html
  20. ^ http://bigstory.ap.org/article/cianci-sauce-made-no-money-charity-4-years
  21. ^ http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20141104-election-with-a-providence-sound-local-hip-hop-artists-release-buddy-cianci.ece

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph A. Doorley
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
Joseph R. Paolino, Jr.
Preceded by
Joseph R. Paolino, Jr.
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
John J. Lombardi