As the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reports:
Progressive politics coalition Campaign for a Strong Colorado says state Treasurer Walker Stapleton should follow the advice he provided to the U.S. House Ways and Means committee this week when he argued in favor of the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act. “Greater transparency and better information is important for the fiscal health of our states and for our taxpayers,” he said. Strong Colorado agreed and urged Stapleton to bring his point home to the taxpayers he serves by opening up his full current employment records so the Colorado public can see how he’s earning his money and spending his time…
Stapleton came under fire almost the same week he took office in January when a Politics Daily report based on public Securities and Exchange Commission documents detailed how Stapleton had signed a lucrative consulting contract with SonomaWest Holdings, the Northern California real-estate firm he headed for years as CEO. Stapleton arranged to consult with Sonoma for up to 250 hours per year for $150,000 while acting as Colorado’s treasurer.
The arrangement drew the attention of government watchdogs, who took comfort from the fact that the records filed publicly with the SEC would continue to provide some level of transparency into the deal. Coloardo Ethics Watch called it a “back-door form of transparency” and said full or front-door transparency was warranted because the deal as revealed “could potentially take up a huge portion of the state Treasurer’s time.” Toro said there was also no real way to verify Stapleton’s claim that there was “no potential for conflict of interest between the state and SonomaWest.”
As the Colorado Independent reported in March, the question of transparency gained new urgency when Stapleton’s family business, Denver-based Stapleton Acquisitions Company, announced it intended to buy out SonomaWest shareholders and take the company private, putting an end to SEC filings…
All of which makes Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee late this week in favor of public employee pension “transparency”–well, it’s not perfectly apples-to-apples hypocrisy, but it’s certainly close enough to invite the question. What’s good for Stapleton is not so much for pensions: a lack of “transparency.”
“The Public Employee Pension Transparency Act makes a lot of sense,” he said before the Ways and Means Committee. To Coloradans with an eye on national politics, however, the fact that Stapleton, a Bush family scion, is staking ground on the especially charged partisan topic of public-sector workers and that he traveled to Washington in support of the Republican-backed bill authored by GOP budget leader Paul Ryan, suggests there may be more at work in all of this than just good sense.
Some suspect Stapleton is adding his voice and the resources of his office to the national movement to undercut public workers, a movement on display most prominently these days in Wisconsin. Indeed, Stapleton’s congressional testimony is sure to fuel those suspicions.
Tomasic concludes with a brief explanation of last year’s Senate Bill 1 reform of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado, a bipartisan reform bill that (along with several other bills) substantially increased employee contributions and tightened payout eligibility–and, supporters say, will fully fund the system based on defensible estimated rates of return. If that’s right, “transparency” shouldn’t be an issue. But right back at you, Walker Stapleton!
At some point along the way, anyway, people will inevitably begin to consider the source.