Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Doesn't Robin Vos Want You To See His Financial Disclosure Statement?

"Hold on a minute! You want to see my Statement of Economic Interest? Well you are gonna have to go to Madison in person to see that suckers."

The Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to restrict access to the public to view the statements of economic interest filed by public officials and have added it to the budget because...they can.

What is it? Well it's a document that lets citizens know who public officials are in business with and what kind of money they make from these business arrangements. Most importantly, it is a powerful device to insure that elected officials aren't making significant profits in business that could represent a conflict to their public obligations.

Robin Vos, in particular has been keen to restrict access to this information and made sure it was attached to the 2011 biennium budget as JFC co-chair. Under their new rule, a person will have to travel to Madison in person, request and pay for any statements and wait while it is retrieved. Presently you can fax or mail a request to the GAB and then send a check. The GAB will email, fax or mail you the disclosure once they are paid...so it's no snap. Why the change? What is so interesting that Vos wants to make it even more difficult for Wisconsinites to see these financial disclosures?

According to Monday's Journal Sentinel:
"Vos, who in addition to his legislative work owns a popcorn business, said he strongly suspected he had lost business because competitors had identified some of his customers through his state financial disclosures. He said the change would make it harder for out-of-state business competitors to poach his business." 
Well it's good he has the interests of the people in mind and not his own selfish reasons...ass.

This story has picked up steam through the week and it made the Siren wonder what little Robin's latest statement said...

Well, he owns LOTS of rental properties. He runs a rental property company out of Burlington with Racine County Executive, Jim Ladwig. His popcorn empire also sells to Jim Ladwig's mini-golf empire...so that's nice for the both of them. Roughly 100 popcorn business accounts are listed...busy guy. He dumped his previous mutual funds off the list in 2009, he's got a mortgage and owes his parents more than $50 grand, which is probably business related.

As far as financial disclosures go - it ain't a big deal. The take away is he has business interests that would keep any regular person pretty busy let alone the co-chair of Joint Finance. His financial interests are fairly intertwined with the County Exec. which is kinda icky...but not illegal.

Digging deeper, Vos' 2005 disclosure shows that Bill McReynolds was an officer in JMR Enterprises (Knight's Popcorn) which according to corporationwiki, he still is.

Vos has an interesting business history with County Executives.

His 2005 disclosure also shows honorariums for ALEC conferences and those also show up on his campaign finance reports in recent years...Vos has been moving in the ALEC world for quite a while.

So Vos doesn't like listing his popcorn empire clients because his competition will move into his territory - so he's legislating from Madison to protect his business at the expense of public disclosure. Or he doesn't like easy viewing of the paper trail of business dealings with the past and present County Executives whose individual influence no doubt benefit their mutual business prospects. Probably both.

Lastly, with trained cockatiel Tyson Fettes as a Burlington Town Supervisor - which is also home to Ladwig and Vos' property investment company - who is now poised to take Ladwig's old job as Register of Deeds with letters of recommendation from Ladwig, Vos and McReynold's - and who also used to work for Vos' popcorn company helps to make the coincidences pile up into something that kinda stinks.

In Racine County - if you want to be successful in business you better go in to GOP politics.