Tobias Read: Four Years of Failure in the State Treasury

Tobias Read has been busy making bad decisions and spending your money on things that should make every Oregonian – Democrat or Republican – raise an eyebrow. Let’s look at just a few of things he’s been up to while “doing his time” as Treasurer while he waits for his turn to run for Governor.

Scandals, Bad Decisions and Pay-to-Play Politics

Tobias drew a lot of attention when he was caught red-handed trying to push policy behind the back of Rukaiyah Adams, chairwoman of the Oregon Investment Council, the agency tasked with managing the state’s pension deficit. Read was trying push a policy to give his campaign donors in the government employee union sector a windfall by drafting policy behind her back that would force buildings that had 51% ownership by the state to employ only union contractors.The current threshold is 100%. Adams was quoted in an email to Tobias’ policy director, “ Given that the treasurer is campaigning right now, I am very concerned about side deals with interest groups. I do not want any campaigning through policy happening. At all.”

We’ve all heard about the threat of PERS, and what it has done to gobble up funds intended to go to the classroom. Tobias Read has shown no leadership on the issue. Even now, after 20 years of warnings, PERS is paying out more than it is taking in. The shortfall becomes higher taxes for all Oregonians. However, Tobias is content to kick the can down the road. “It’s definitely an issue for the council to consider,” said Treasurer Tobias Read. “I feel good about the fact that we’re taking this seriously. We have the capacity to be thoughtful about it. We don’t have to make drastic changes.”

One of the most egregious things Tobias has done in office is his flagrant and unapologetic pay-to-play political fundraising.
As part of the job of Treasurer, Read’s office is responsible for assigning extremely lucrative contracts for class-action lawsuits on behalf of the state. These law firms then make millions. It’s no wonder that earlier this year, OPB reported that 40% of Tobais Read’s campaign contributions came from out of state firms in New York, Washington DC and Delaware.

Reckless, Narcissistic Spending

When Tobias Read took office, apparently he thought the traditional seal of Oregon was too outdated for his vision for the Treasury. So he spent $195,368 on a new logo, and to replace the logo on the Treasurer’s website. Read the public records request here.

Here is the logo we had:

oldTreasurer's logo

And here is the $195,000 update:

New Logo

But it doesn’t end there. Tobias decided to star in his own “comedy” film in order to promote Oregon Saves, which is a mandatory program. He spent $245,000 producing and promoting a 7 1/2 minute video placed as sponsored content on “Funny or Die,” which entailed a cringe-worthy period piece about a settler who invented retirement savings.

There was no contact information, website or other call for action that would offer some kind of path for this to be anything but a quarter-million dollar exercise in narcissism and vanity.

Investing the State Pension Fund in I.C.E. Detention Facilities and Private Prisons

The Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund has at least $2.1 million invested in GEO Group and CoreCivic, two government contractors that build and operate immigrant detention facilities. Your tax dollars are being used to fund highly controversial, and what Read himself calls “immoral” businesses. You can read the story here. Pamela Quinlan, a Portland lawyer said, “No rational person thinks we should have social justice warriors run the [Public Employee Retirement System] fund. But the thing about private prisons is that their business plan is evil. Harm is the aim.”

Putting his Own Ambitions Before Your Best Interests

All these – and many other failures in Tobias Read’s last four years show that he’s been asleep at the wheel as State Treasurer. Rather than informing citizens about state debt capacity, or educating legislators on PERS obligations, he spends frivolous amounts of money on capricious personal projects, and lines his pockets with contributions from class-action law firms that stand to make millions consulting for our state government. Enough is enough. No more corruption, no more incompetence, and no more narcissistic behavior from an unqualified Treasurer waiting for his turn to be governor. This November – let’s retire Tobias Read and put the right person in office. Vote Jeff Gudman for State Treasurer.