Ohio Democrats are pouncing on state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) for apparently forgetting $65 billion in state pension funds under his supervision, calling it an example of his management of his office while running for U.S. Senate.
Democrats are pointing to a question a Dayton Daily News reporter asked Mandel at a press conference earlier this month about his position on a series of pension reform bills pending in the state Legislature. Mandel, who serves as the custodian of the pension funds, indicated that he had read the bills but that his office would not be offering a formal opinion to the Legislature. The bills passed last week.
"I will be watching it closely as the custodian of the $100 billion in assets," Mandel said in the exchange, which was caught on video.
The reporter quickly told Mandel that the pension fund had $165 billion in assets. Mandel smiled in the video and backed away from the podium. Mandel is challenging U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) for his seat in the November election.
Democrats are adding the exchange to a series of criticisms that have emerged in recent weeks regarding Mandel's management of his office. This includes Mandel missing 14 months of meetings of the state Board of Deposit, which he chairs, and hiring friends for state jobs after attacking former treasurer Kevin Boyce (D) during the 2010 campaign for cronyism. Mandel was elected treasurer in 2010 after four years in the state House of Representatives.
The Board of Deposit decides where to deposit state funds, including pension monies. Treasurer's office spokesman, Chris Berry, did not return a call for comment.
"After blowing off more than a year of billion-dollar investment meetings he is supposed to chair, it's clear that Josh Mandel is so far removed from business at the treasurer's office that he doesn't even know the size of the pension funds his office supposedly oversees," Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker said. "Josh Mandel's refusal to do his job and lack of basic knowledge about how Ohio tax dollars are invested is yet another unfortunate example of how he's just another politician Ohioans can't trust."