Diana Irey Vaughan Gets Serious

McCord, left, and Irey Vaughan

How do you make a case against an incumbent when most people don’t know his job description?

That’s the challenge facing Diana Irey Vaughan, a five-term Washington County Commissioner and the Republican challenging incumbent Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord.

Thursday, she unveiled a detailed policy platform that she says will put Pa. on the right track to deal with its growing pension burdens.

The Treasurer’s most important job is managing Pa. financial assets, and the biggest piece of that is the state pension fund.

The essential criticism Irey Vaughan offers is that Pa.’s pension obligation has only grown during McCord’s tenure. That’s a problem inherent in the system as more and more pensioners retire. But McCord is making it worse, she says.

Her paper points to a New York Times article from April 2012 which compared the pension management of Pa. and Georgia:

The $26.3 billion Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has more than 46 percent of its assets in riskier alternatives, including nearly 400 private equity, venture capital and real estate funds.

The system paid about $1.35 billion in management fees in the last five years and reported a five-year annualized return of 3.6 percent. That is below the 8 percent target needed to meet its financing requirements, and it also lags behind a 4.9 percent median return among public pension systems.

In Georgia, the $14.4 billion municipal retirement system, which is prohibited by state law from investing in alternative investments, has earned 5.3 percent annually over the same time frame and paid about $54 million total in fees.

“It’s no wonder Pennsylvania continues to make big bets on alternative investments,” her campaign says. “Rob McCord is a former venture capitalist, private equity investor and investment broker. He is managing the state’s resources as if he were still managing a risky Wall Street venture capital portfolio.”

McCord campaign spokesman Mark Nevins said Irey Vaughan was not credible on fiscal issues.

Just today, the Washington County Observer-Reporter reported that the County faces a $5 million budget shortfall, despite a 3.5 mill property tax increase supported by Irey Vaughan

“Diana Irey Vaughan is a career politician who voted to increase her own pay while raising taxes on Washington County residents. And this is what happens when a career politician tries to come up with a plan for an important office like the treasury – you get a plan with no credibility,” Nevins said. “This plan has no business sense.”

“She sees everything through a political lens because that’s all she’s ever known.  Treasurer McCord, by contrast, is a business leader. He sees things from a business perspective. In these difficult times, we can’t risk letting a career politician take control of the treasurer’s office.”

McCord boasts that he’s helped earn $1.4 billion in revenue for the state as a return on investments made during his tenure. He also notes that Pa.’s college savings program is now 98 percent funded, up from 70 percent when he took office. The office of Pa. Treasurer is also far more efficient under his leadership, he says. He’s cut his office budget by 22 percent, reduced workforce by 19 percent, and reduced overtime hours by 73 percent.

More accomplishments are spelled out on his campaign’s website.

The Campaign

As if campaigning for an obscure office isn’t already tough, she’s at a huge disadvantage when it comes to fundraising. At the end of the most recent reporting period in September, she had about $26,000 on hand to McCord’s $2 million.

Obscure candidates typically must ride the coattails of the top of the ticket; in this case, Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney. Add in a few TV ads for McCord, and Irey Vaughan has a steep uphill climb. Without a significant surge in the GOP’s favor between no and election day, she is a long shot.

What does it mean in the long run? McCord is the first name mentioned as possible contenders for Governor against Tom Corbett in 2014. At least Republicans can take heart in the fact that any campaign cash McCord is forced to spend this year is money he won’t have next cycle.

Here’s Irey Vaughan’s full plan:

Irey Vaughan Plan for PA

15 Responses

  1. Where to start..let’s start with the picture of Irey-Vaughan is 17 years old it is the one she used when she first ran for office. Also if anyone would check out her formal education she claims to have she has none. All you have to do is contact college admission offices we did (Diana Clark from WVA) I believe she has a 12th grade education but considering she has no concept what a state treasurer duties are I have to think that also could be doubtful. I would not trust her to balance my checkbook but hey take her to Harrisburg and out of Washington County I for one would be grateful to get her out of the county….What a piece of work that one is….

  2. But most of you are ignoring that McCord is the ONLY statewide elected official on the PSERS and SERS Boards. I’m having a hard time buying that he doesn’t bring a lot of influence to bear on those boards. In fact, if what you’re saying is true and he does have such little influence inside and outside of those boardrooms, I would say that’s probably time for a change and we have a good reason to fire the guy.

  3. Good point, policyguy. The investment banker Treasurer has kept his mouth shut and voted to approve every single one of these sweetheart deals to a handful of law firms and investment banking firms and hedge funds which have cost the taxpayer 1.35 billion – billion with a ‘b’ over the past five years. Those are the real public welfare queens sitting in their Rolls Royces and being shuttled around in their private planes by draining the pockets of the taxpayers. Maybe 450 guys – and they are mostly guys – are living large thanks to our Treasurer smiling and waving as our tax dollars are tossed into the wallets of these banksters.

  4. As pointed out, the Treasurer doesn’t manage the state employees or the school employees retirement fund. Those funds are managed by boards. The SERS board includes representatives of the four legislative caucuses, but has historically been controlled by appointees who must confirmed by the Senate. If you look, virtually all of the appointees who are confirmed by the Senate were appointed by Republican Governors; the Democratic Governor’s have not been successful in having their candidates approved. It is certainly legitimate to raise questions about the investment decisions of the SERS, but the fault certainly doesn’t lie at the feet of the state Treasurer. And if there is a problem with their investment practices, that is an area that an independent Auditor General should explore.

  5. Irey Vaughn can’t be blamed for what is going on in Washington, there are three votes not just hers. And she has been the one commissioner to vote against giving money away to companies. She has always been an advocate for the people. She has also given back her COLA’s.

  6. The key point is this: government bureaucrats led by the Treasurer allowed bankers to skim 1.35 billlion in fees off churning investments over the last five years. That is a straight up gift. In return, Mr. McCord – a former investment banker – takes credit for earning 1.4 billion during his tenure. With a saner allocation to less “gifted” investment bankers, the state of Pa. could have been sitting on 2.4 billion. That is the cost to the taxpayer for insider deals and cozy relationships: one billion dollars over five years.

  7. @Jimbo is right, the Treasurer of Pennsylvania certainly doesn’t control the public retirement funds. For example, the Treasurer has only one vote on a 15 member Board of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). PSERS is much larger than the State Employees Retirement System (SERS), for which the Treasurer has the same amount of influence, or lack thereof. Oh yeah, the Treasurer is an ex officio member of both boards, not even a full voting member.

    The Treasurer, however, does have complete control over the Tuition Account Program (TAP). If you don’t believe me, perhaps you and Diana Irey Whatever-Husband #2’s-Last Name-Is should spend at least a few minutes looking into the facts.

  8. The Treasurer doesn’t have any control over how SERS and PSERS allocate their investments, but thanks for playing.

  9. Why is Diana using Occupy Wall Street socialist propaganda to go after McCord. Seriously Diana, “risky Wall Street capitalists.” Wow. A proud consevative sounding like a liberal rings very hollow and is so blatantly political schlock. Sloppy.

  10. Diana is too busy working on her campaign white paper to care about her County’s budget going millions in the hole! Both Diana Vaughn and Larry Maggi have mismanaged county funds while they are out on the campaign trail seeking higher office just months after being elected commissioners. Unreal. Well, now McCord and Murphy can bury those 2 with this embarrassing headline in the final weeks. Put a fork in it – game over for both of them.

  11. I commend Irey Vaughan for putting out her plan. FINALLY someone is taking a lead on this issue!

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