One often hears complaints that legislators, especially at the federal level, court donations from powerful interests, introduce and seek to advance legislation that serves those interests, and then, when they leave office, continue to promote those interests as paid lobbyists.
Although the monies involved might be somewhat smaller, depending on the state, the same thing occurs at the state level—especially in states that have placed term limits on their legislators. In effect, term limits have made professional staffers and lobbyists the most knowledgeable and most powerful figures in those state houses. Ironically but all too typically, the term limits that were ostensibly intended to make state governments more democratic by preventing politicians from becoming entrenched in their elected offices have actually made governance less democratic by making much of the deal-making much less transparent and most of the actual deal-makers more shadowy. Indeed, as on the federal level, many of the term-limited state legislators are becoming lobbyists because they recognize where the real money and the real political power resides.
Given the billions of dollars generated by public higher education and given the rampant corporatization of our institutions, it is hardly surprising that this sort of troubling “revolving door” should now be becoming more commonplace among upper-level administrators, especially at flagship institutions.
Writing for the Dayton Daily News, Laura A. Bischoff of the paper’s Columbus bureau, has reported that Ohio State University’s CFO Geoff Chatas will be retiring to assume a position with QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australian investment firm seeking to expand its North American holdings.
What is problematic about Chatas’ new position is that, as CFO, he “was the driving force behind an agreement in June 2012 to lease for 50 years the school’s 35,000 on campus parking spaces in exchange for $483 million in cash upfront”—to QIC Global Infrastructure. The deal provoked a great deal of scrutiny and controversy both “because of the length of the lease and [because of] the ceding of control of the parking operation to a private investment firm.”
Chatas has dismissed the notion that there is any conflict of interest in his now being hired by QIC Global Infrastructure simply because “he will not be involved in QIC’s parking deal with OSU as part of his new role.”
Many others are, however, much more concerned about the fairly obvious appearance of a major conflict of interest. Indeed, there are such concerns about the ethical issues in Chatas’ being hired by QIC Global Infrastructure that his size of severance compensation from Ohio State has become almost a footnote issue. In addition to his salary of $684,503 and a 2014-2015 bonus of $50,289, Chatas will receive an additional $1.08 million because he “stayed on the job for five years.”
Bischoff’s complete article is available at the following URL (though it is possible that you may need to be a subscriber to access the whole article):