“Transparency” For Thee, Not For Me, Says Walker Stapleton

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.

16 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. meandmyuncle says:

    Senate Bill 1 was the epitome of shared sacrifice and responsible governance.  Retirees, employees, employers and legislators all worked together to craft a responsible bill last year.  Stapleton and others in the legislature only want to move to a 401k-style system to enrich private firms and push off any accountability for the welfare and retirement of nearly 500,000 Coloradans.   Hopefully our representatives at the Capitol will continue to be good stewards of PERA and look to what is best for Colorado, not just what is expedient and profitable for the private sector.  

  2. bjwilson83 says:

    the affairs of SonomaWest, a private company based in California, don’t really concern Coloradans, nor do they constitute a conflict of interest. But the government of Colorado does tend to concern the people of Colorado. Of course, those who don’t respect private property rights probably wouldn’t understand the distinction.

    • Ralphie says:

      You are completely full of shit.

      One of the treasurer’s jobs is to invest our money.  How do we know he’s investing it in OUR interest, not his?

      That’s what conflict of interest is about.  And the appearance of conflict is as bad as actual conflict.

      • droll says:

        And anyway, isn’t this all about the company Stapleton currently works for being bought/absorbed/whatever by a Denver based company (his family’s) that… does business in Denver?

        In other words, Stapleton will no longer be working for a California based business doing business only in California by virtue of a Denver company owning a majority of stock.

        Otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for a snarky diary. Unless I’m missing the point.

        • There is a major conflict

          Basically, 90% of the State Treasurer’s job is to invest Colorado’s funds, which total to between $5 to $6 billion

          To my best knowledge, SonomaWest deals heavily in real estate and land, both things that often require high banking assistance, where large credit lines are key to success

          If you look at the State Treasury portfolios of Colorado, there is likely to be a great amount of banks bonds (Wells Fargo, CitiGroup, etc) – in turn, if a bank gives a sweet deal to SonomaWest (great credit lines, huge loans with lots of time to pay, etc) then there could be a ‘wink wink’ deal that Colorado invests heavily in the debt of that ‘said’ bank

          Overall – there is a MASSIVE conflict at hand and Walker Stapleton either needs to excuse himself from SonomaWest or get an opinion from the Attorney General

          Quite honestly, for all the harrassment he receives, at least Scott Gessler got an opinion – it was the right thing to do for Colorado

    • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

      that republicans believe government exists to enable them to exploit the people and natural resources of the world for their personal gain.

      Many of the new republican corporatists that swept to power in 2010 are altering state laws to set themselves up with very profitable businesses. (In western Colorado, this is known as the “Steve King Principle”.) The new governor of Florida is a good example.

      Walker Stapleton is merely exercising his birthright as one of the privileged elite ( AKA “the corporate aristocracy”) who operate by that OTHER set of rules… the ones they get to make up for themselves.    

        • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

          owned, for some time, by state senator Steve King is involved in security planning and services.

          I believe, without looking it up, that it was last year that Representative King introduced legislation that would REQUIRE all Colorado schools to install just the sort of plans Mr. Kings’ business prepares.

          I await correction, if I am in error.

        • Ralphie says:

          King is a security consultant.  One year, he had a nice contract with Mesa State to audit the College’s security plan.

          That same year, he ran a bill requiring all schools, colleges, and universities to have incident response plans.

          I think that’s the “Steve King Principle” to which Duke refers.

      • bjwilson83 says:

        I can’t completely disagree with you about the first point. However,

        A) I don’t see how this applies here. Stapleton has always been a businessman, and I fail to see how he is using his position as treasurer to unfairly benefit SonomaWest.

        B) Democrats paint with too broad a brush and are too quick to jump to conclusions. They instinctively believe that simple pro-growth policies designed to boost the economy are somehow nefarious plots by “the man” to take their money (which they would have more of if they spent more time working and less time yapping about said “man”).

        C) I am a grassroots conservative Republican. I believe in free markets and I disagree with those in the business wing of the party who attempt to buy government favor with lobbyists * ahem * XCEL. I do not accept crony capitalism (although while we’re on the subject, Dems are just as bad or worse about jumping into bed with corporations – it’s just called socialism when they do it).

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Is that he’s not putting in the time the job requires. And based on who is paying him more, my guess is in his free time, if he is thinking of work problems – again not the Treasurer job.

    Is it too much to ask the Republicans we elect to these full time jobs – to treat it as a full time job?

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      For the GOP, especially GOP politicians who are businessmen (and trumpet the fact, like it makes them more qualified for office on its own merit), the government has one useful function – to channel business their way. Pay close enough attention to their policies, and that’s what they’re all designed to do.

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