State Treasurer candidates lay out plans to protect Ohio’s money

Republican Robert Sprague and Democrat Rob Richardson are running for state treasurer this fall to replace Treasurer Josh Mandel who is term-limited.

We asked both candidates what they would do if elected. Here’s a look at their experience and their answers to our questions:

Rob Richardson

Experience:  9 years on the University of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees. 10 years as a labor attorney practicing securities litigation.

I served for nine years on the Board of Trustees at UC, where I had a great deal of oversight on our billion-dollar budget. I’m proud to say that, during my tenure, we experienced record enrollment and growth, accumulated millions of dollars in cash reserves, and were ranked the #1 return on public school investment for students by PolicyMic. I chose to run for this position because I believe the treasurer is an integral yet often underutilized office. I have plans for the office that go above and beyond the bare minimum requirements and seek innovative approaches to use the state’s money to expand access and opportunities to people throughout Ohio.

WHAT’S ON YOUR BALLOT? Check out our online voters guide

Robert Sprague

Experience: State Representative, 83rd District, 2011-Present. Auditor, city of Findlay 2008-2011. Treasurer, city of Findlay 2005-2008. Principal. Vasa Capital, Findlay 2005. Owner, Talus Technology, Atlanta GA 1998. Management Consultant, Ernst & Young, 1996.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the state treasurer’s office?

Richardson: I’m not convinced the office needs to cut any services, though I am concerned about the direction previous treasurers have decided to go. I know the treasurer should absolutely not use taxpayer dollars for things that benefit them more than the office.

I think the challenges that face the office have to do with restoring accountability to taxpayers.

That means using the office to promote services that benefit the public, like financial empowerment programs or low-interest student loans. It also means potentially divesting from entities that harm people, like for-profit prisons.

Sprague: Instead of looking at the biggest challenges facing the Treasurer’s office, I’ve developed my platform by identifying the biggest challenges facing the state and then determining how the Treasurer can make a difference.

One area in particular I will focus on is the standardization of social impact bonds (SIBs) to help fight the opiate epidemic, infant mortality and other societal ills. SIBs foster partnerships between the public and private sectors, where the private market develops new programs, but the public sector only pays if the new programs can be proven to deliver results.

This innovative financial tool will bring the private sector to the table in a meaningful way and introduce a new funding stream to the effort to tackle Ohio’s most pressing problems. I encourage readers to visit to find a more detailed overview of my plans for the office.

What would you do if elected to strengthen the state’s pension funds? Do you support a change in state law to allow the public pension systems to select their own bankers, rather than the treasurer of state having that authority?

Richardson: Overseeing the safety and management of our public pension funds is one of the treasurer’s most important duties. I personally don’t believe ceding this power is necessarily in the our best interest.

The people of Ohio need leaders who will serve their interests above all else, and with me they have the opportunity to elect a treasurer who will use the powers and influence of the office to bring more opportunities to them while holding the powerful accountable.

I want to ensure we invest in entities that bring more than just a good return on investment, such as jobs or new technologies that will help us further down the road. I will select people that share my vision and priorities for Ohio’s best interests.

Sprague: According to Ohio law, the Treasurer of State only has a fiduciary role for the state’s pension funds, simply keeping the deposits and securities safe. However limited, this is an important responsibility that I take very seriously because individuals pay into these systems their entire working lives with the assurance that the money will be there when they need it.

That’s why I strongly believe that there is no place for playing politics with people’s pensions and stand firmly opposed to leveraging the power of the Treasurer to pressure the pension funds into making investment decisions simply to advance one’s personal political agenda.

While I do believe that having the Treasurer retain contractual authority with the depository institutions provides an important check in the process, my door is always open to our pension systems for further discussion on this and other matters in order to ensure pensioners’ retirement assets are adequately safeguarded and maximized.

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