Saturday, October 17, 2009

Associated Press should have Identified the Source of Information used to Insinuate Treasurer Clint Zweifel is Hypocritical or Broke State Law

State Treasurer Zweifel, a Democrat, also serves as the chair of Missouri's Housing Commission (MHC)

An "Associated Press" article in Saturday's "Springfield News-Leader," declares:

Treasurer accepts cash from developer
Zweifel backed new ethics rules requiring conflict disclosure

What the AP article tells you is that Zweifel supported state law mandating individual MHC members should disclose potential conflicts of interest, and then recuse themselves from the decision making which could be affected by such conflicts.

Then, as if disconnected from Zweifel's backing of the requirement that conflicts should be disclosed by members, the AP reported that Zwiefel accepted campaign contributions from people who had applied for tax credits which would be awarded by the commission on which he serves.

The kicker comes in the last paragraph of the article, when the AP states that Zweifel told "the newspaper" that lawmakers need to make a decision regarding whether elected officials, who under our current system depend on contributions to run their campaigns, should be prohibited from accepting campaign contributions if they serve on commissions awarding tax credits. Zweifel believes, according to the AP report, that policy should be consistent across the board for those who serve on commissions with a potential to judge who should receive tax credit awards.

What troubles me is that the report does not state how the AP or "newspaper" received the information and/or whether Zweifel was the one to disclose it. Also unnoted is whether Zweifel continued to be involved in any decision making regarding tax credits involving the named campaign contributors after the contributions were received. If Zweifel reported the conflict and recused himself from making a decision regarding the award of tax credits by the commission, he has followed the law he backed, which apparently, at this time, does not prohibit commissioners who deal in awarding tax credits from accepting campaign contributions from people who have applied to receive those tax credits.

The AP might have sensationalized it in their headline, in my view, casting aspersion on Zweifel rather than the system and process, or the lawmakers who define it. Zweifel is right in calling on lawmakers to make a decision about whether those who serve on tax credit awarding commissions should be allowed to accept campaign contributions. If they are not prohibited from doing so, which appears to be the case, then why did the AP set it up to insinuate Zweifel is doing some kind of shady, under the table sort of transaction with someone who might benefit from the current system? Where's the problem if Zweifel disclosed the conflict and recused himself from decision making?

On the other hand, if Zweifel did not disclose the conflict and did not recuse himself from decision making regarding the award of tax credits after he had received campaign contributions from applicants, it certainly would be a problem for Zweifel but, the AP simply doesn't give us enough information to support the insinuation they appear to be making.

Poor reporting all around, if you ask me. It raises far more questions than it answers.

Some people believe the issue of Missouri Housing Commission tax credits is even more complicated.

In an October 14 article, AP reporter David Lieb revealed two residents of St. Louis have filed suit, questioning the state constitutionality of the tax credits currently being awarded to private developers for large redevelopment projects. The suit also questions the constitutionality of recent expansions of topics under the law, reaching, the suit charges, past the original intent of such tax credit awards.


1 comment:

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