In an interview this morning on WGAU (1340AM) in Athens, former Gov. Roy Barnes expounded on a pair of topics – his own banking interests, and how teacher pensions should be invested.
Radio host Tim Bryant kindly sent us some of the sound – and Barnes’ Democratic rival, David Poythress, sent us a transcript. With his own commentary.
Then there’s the matter of Barnes’ fifth television ad, which debuted today. It’s aimed directly at teachers. But first, the radio interview.
Bryant specifically asked Barnes about charges by Poythress — and other candidates — that the former governor’s proposal to require banks to negotiate with homeowners before foreclosures is hypocritical, because Barnes has invested in banks.
“Unfortunately, it’s just personal politics as usual. I’d ask David, is he opposed to the mortgage foreclosure relief that I’m advocating. Why not disagree on issues rather than personalities.
“Now, have I invested in banks? Yes, I have. Over the years, going back to the ’80s. And will continue to do so. I’m not saying banks are evil. I’m saying they have to be responsible. The same way in 2002 that I advocated and pushed through the Legislature what Newsweek called the toughest anti-predatory lending bill in the nation.
“To say, well, you own stock in this or that or the other, and therefore you can’t speak on this issue is kind of saying, if you owned a Chevrolet, and when General Motors got a little assistance from the federal government, you’re supposed to pull that Chevrolet over to the side and park it on the side. Quit attacking the messenger, and start talking about issues…”
Then there was the matter of an Athens Banner-Herald report that – in a closed forum with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce last week – Barnes suggested that the state teacher’s pension system be allowed to participate in riskier venture capital investments.
“I’ve had this position for years, it’s nothing new. What I’ve said is that the teachers, you should take the employees retirement fund first to show the teachers that you get benefits from venture capital.
“Now Georgia is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow this, by the way. Is there more risk? Now you take 1 or 2 percent and invest. Now let me ask you this, if Georgia had invested in the start-up called Apple, would anybody be criticizing that.”
No, Bryant said, but they’d probably be critical if Georgia had invested in Enron. Replied Barnes:
Well, Enron was not a start up… what we’re talking about is technology companies, high tech and bio tech companies that helps to invest. All you’ve got to do is hit one, and it helps bring about the investment increase that you have.
“Now, let me tell you, not only that, but the employees of the state of Georgia, and teachers, as far as this goes, have their retirement guaranteed by the taxpayers. They have what is called a defined benefits program. It is not dependent on how well the investments do.”
One note: Both men probably forgot, but state pension authorities did in fact invest in Enron. And lost their shirts — to the tune of $127 million when the company filed bankruptcy.
“As governor, I will not, under any circumstances, gamble the hard-earned retirements of state employees and school teachers in venture capital funding or any other risky investments. If there were ever an instance in which Roy Barnes revealed his true colors, this is it. “
And here’s the TV ad mentioned above:
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