by Clarke Price, CAE, President and CEO
OSCPA’s candidate endorsement program began in 1992 and has been one of our most successful advocacy tools. While PAC donations are a big help and welcomed by candidates, the Society’s endorsement has value that can be more difficult to quantify. The bottom line is CPAs are respected and the public knows we don’t make any decision cavalierly. When we make an endorsement, the public has confidence that we’ve done our homework and considered multiple factors beyond a candidate’s likelihood of winning on Election Day.
The Society’s statewide candidate interview process is unique. The Statewide Endorsement Screening Committees consists of 18 members who collectively question each candidate in personal, one-hour interviews. That’s followed by extensive and very candid discussion of the candidate’s answers, as well as an analysis of his or her voting record and consideration of how that candidate has interacted with OSCPA representatives in the past. It’s this discussion that’s the most spirited. Frankly, you can’t believe what’s been said by some candidates over the years, and how they interact with the committee. Sometimes it just makes you shake your head wondering if they really understand what’s important to CPAs and the business community. The recommendations from the Statewide Endorsement Committee are then considered by the Executive Board, which makes the final decision. Unlike some think, the PAC has nothing to do with the Society’s endorsement evaluation process.
I’m sure the decision to endorse Sherrod Brown for re-election to the U.S. Senate will surprise some of our members. If you’ve paid attention to the multitude of TV ads that are running, you’ve seen him described as everything from the worst thing to happen to Americans to someone who takes his job seriously and is committed to making every decision with the best interests of Ohioans foremost in his mind.
One thing from the TV ads is true―Sherrod Brown has held elected office for a long time. The benefit of that is there’s a long list of votes on which his candidacy can be evaluated. And when it comes to votes on issues of importance to the CPA profession, he’s cast far more in support of our interests than against. I’m sure some will immediately argue that his vote for the Affordable Care Act should override all of his other votes, but we’ve always looked at the broad perspective of a candidate’s votes and we don’t focus on how a candidate voted on any single issue. The totality of that legislator’s record is one of our foremost concerns.
What does OSCPA actually care about when evaluating a candidate?
First, we care about access and whether the candidate has or will give us an opportunity to discuss issues that concern OSCPA and the profession. More than just about any other state or federal legislator we’ve worked with, Sherrod Brown has always gone out of his way to meet with Society representatives and to seek our opinion on issues. Frankly, he’s been a valued asset in executing our legislative strategies over the years.
Second, we care about how a candidate actually voted on the issues we’ve raised. Senator Brown has a long history of supporting our positions and during the 112th Congress he’s continued that record. AICPA has identified six bills in this session of Congress that have come through the Senate so far. His record includes being the lead sponsor on one of the bills, voting for four of the bills and helping us by keeping the last one from coming up for a vote. He’s had a consistent record on our issues and he’s deviated from the official party position on more than one occasion; on the issue of providing reasonable liability reforms to protect CPAs, while in the U.S. House, he cast the deciding vote to override a Presidential veto.
Finally, we care about fairness and supporting candidates who are willing to get out in front on tough issues. Sherrod Brown is seen by some as a lightning rod for controversial issues; that can’t be denied. But his passion and his willingness to listen to OSCPA and carry our message make him a logical choice for this endorsement.
I’m sure there are some who are reading this and thinking “what were the Endorsement Committee and Executive Board thinking when they made this choice?” Others likely have a reaction that’s significantly stronger. I can assure you the discussion in both groups was extensive and spirited. The pros and cons of endorsing each of the candidates were weighed and the votes overwhelmingly favored endorsing Sherrod Brown. I concur with that conclusion.
Keep in mind that our endorsements cover just a segment of the issues that are likely important to you as a voter, and our Election Guide is meant to be a valuable resource you can use in combination with others available to you. When it comes to this race, I encourage every member to consider the candidates, their records, their experience and then vote for the person that you think will be best for Ohio, for CPAs, and the best for you and your future. What’s most important is that we all vote―whether it’s in person on Election Day, during early voting or via absentee ballot. Your vote counts, so be sure to vote on Election Day.