The greatest difficulty facing Indiana voters in November may not be
deciding if the Democratic nominee for state treasurer is worthy of their
vote, but perhaps knowing how to pronounce his name correctly.
Hours before addressing the Porter County Democrats in Valparaiso at their
meeting on Thursday, the aforementioned candidate Pete Buttigieg (pronounced
“Boota-judge” as his website clarifies) stopped by the Chesterton Tribune
office for some old-fashioned on-the-road campaigning.
Buttigieg, a South Bend native, is currently unopposed on the Democratic
slate which will be voted on at the 2010 Indiana Democratic Convention on
Saturday, June 26, in Indianapolis. Buttigieg will be facing current
incumbent Richard Murdock for the treasurer seat in this year’s general
election if formally selected by the Dems.
This is the 28-year-old candidate’s first time running for public office but
he believes he may have a stroke of beginner’s luck by taking a common sense
approach to the issues facing state investments.
With a background in finance and economical development, including a degree
from Harvard, Buttigieg said he chose to leave work in the private sector at
a top consulting firm to help lift the “national emergency” the current
economy has dropped on states like Indiana. He said he has seen the effects
of economic devastation by travelling to third-world countries and felt
there was a lot he could do in his home state to strengthen the economy.
“We need to put the economy first and I’m ready to get my hands in the dirty
work,” he said.
Buttigieg said one of his primary goals would be to find out where the
state’s money is being held and foremost make sure that the money is safe.
The state treasurer’s fund currently manages $7 billion in up to 74 trusts
for the state and Buttigieg said he wants to make sure that money is working
hard to build the state’s economy.
“The bottom line is we want to make sure that (money) is in good shape,” he
said. Much of that money is put into the state’s General Fund, state pension
funds, educations savings funds and recently the Major Moves Construction
fund which are all worth keeping watch over, he said.
Buttigieg is striving to increase transparency with investment policy
statements and state treasury records in Indiana, although surrounding
states like Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan allow transparency. He said he
would like the public to be able to view online instead of having to go
through the process of a public records request.
The only policy statement currently online is the Major Moves policy, which
Buttigieg said he would like to see rewritten to make money safer.
Junk Bonds Not
Worth the Risk
Buttigieg said he is taking a hard line with the incumbent Murdock accusing
him of investing $300 million of the state’s money in “junk bonds,” or
investments that involve a lot of risk of defaulting. Murdock has since
appeared in the media denying having invested in such bonds.
The case last year when Murdock attempted to impede bankruptcy proceedings
for the Chrysler automotive company by filing a lawsuit to secure some of
the dollars for pension funds, involving the Indiana Teacher’s Retirement
Fund, the Indiana State Police pension trust, and the Major Moves
Construction Fund, has spurred heat in the treasurer race. The case found
itself to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court where Murdock’s lawsuit was
Buttigieg said if Murdock’s efforts are successful, the Chrysler junk bonds
he purchased in 2008 for 43 cents on the dollar would have actually come to
29 cents after hearing negotiations between the government and the
stakeholders, recovering far less for the pensions.
The blowback could have lost 5,000 jobs for the Chrysler plant in Kokomo in
June 2009 when Howard County was already near 20 percent unemployment,
Buttigieg said, “close to near-Depression levels of unemployment.”
Buttigieg questions why Murdock made such a “risky” venture, but suspects it
was an attempt to attack President Barack Obama’s new bankruptcy policies.
Buttigieg saw the attempt as partisanship, a practice he pledges to refrain
from if elected.
He sees the job as an administrative and technical role and believes
politics should not come into play.
“It’s about keeping the money safe and growing,” said Buttigieg.
in Local Banks?
With pro-growth statements sprinkled throughout his campaign, Buttigieg
believes local economies can grow by promoting cooperation and fair
treatment between banks and consumers in deals like mortgage loans.
Buttigieg said one of the adversities for small or local business is getting
a loan they need in today’s slump. One remedy in Buttigieg’s noggin is to
cut back on having out-of-state banks manage state funds and give some of
that money to community banks who show good promise of staying away from
“Community banks know the people better. They are better able to gauge risk
and better able to lend locally,” he said. “Small businesses can only grow
if they get a loan.”
Most of the money now, Buttigieg said, is in accounts of private banks that
have retail operations. He said holding banks accountable is an important
part of managing the state’s money.
Buttigieg said his office will perform comprehensive risk reviews to better
judge which investment managers are the safest.
He said the better the state’s money is managed, the less cuts the state
will have to make to programs like education which saw a $300 million cut
Not Too Young To
Buttigieg said he does get teased by his peers for his willingness to take
on such a large responsibility for his age.
He feels very little concern it will be a factor in the race, pointing out
former Indiana senator Birch Bayh as well as his son, former Indiana
governor, Evan Bayh both started their political careers around his age and
were very successful.
Buttigieg said he hopes he can be a symbol of the “new spirit” taking place
in all levels of government by bringing a new energy and fresh ideas.
He said some of his best support comes from retirees who fear the younger
generations run the risk of having a lower standard of living.