I’m a Tucson Arizona lawyer (business, real estate and probate law) and a Licensed Fiduciary (Personal Representative, Trustee and Guardian/Conservator). I also spend part of each day volunteering and helping raise money for good causes. At night I write!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Romney and Bain-Some Thoughts

I've been watching the Romney/Bain Capital situation for a long while, wondering how it will play out. I've been convinced, since day one, that the story is not about Mitt Romney's wealth or envy or anything like that, but let me share a few words about that matter before I address what really matters.

Governor Romney was enormously successful as a financier. Good on him! I don't envy him and, frankly, am quite happy that my life does not involves the burdens attendant to making and having a financial fortune. My only quarrel about all that money relates to the several comments Governor Romney and his wife have shared about starting out with nothing, struggling, etc. For example, there's Ann Romney's comment that when she and her husband were in school those were not easy years, despite the fact that they lived on money invested by George Romney in his company, American Motors. Then there's Governor Romney's comment about being unemployed now, a statement that sits very poorly with people who don't work because there are no available jobs.

Governor Romney started out with a huge leg up in life. His affluent family exposed him to a lifestyle that prepared him for becoming successful. He got the best education money can buy, and the opportunity to develop networks that are only available to the chosen few who attend the most elite educational institutions in the world. Good for him that he used these opportunities to the max, but could there be in all of this just a touch of humility? Maybe a nod to the fact that being born in America, in these times, might have played some role in his success? Yes, he's a big success, but how would he have done if he was born African-American and poor, or if he was trying to get going in Peru or Niger. (Please forgive me if Governor Romney has been humble in public. If he has, his comments are surely not easy to fine!) As an aside on this issue, here are links--text and video--to Michael Lewis' Baccalaureate remarks at the 2012 Princeton University graduation. They're relevant:  http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S33/87/54K53/ and

Now, about the whole Bain thing. Governor Romney chose his message for the campaign. He could be telling voters he was a successful governor in Massachusetts, but he rarely mentions that part of his life. He could be focusing on his education, but he likes to slam Harvard. No, he asks us to pick him because he was a successful businessman. Well, fine! He invited inquiries into his career--maybe he thought he'd be able to just tell people he's a rich, successful businessman and leave it at that--and people have taken a peek.

When people found stuff about the business career that was not so popular, like outsourcing (or offshoring, which is what Governor Romney calls it), Governor Romney denied any involvement with the activities, claiming he was gone by then. Easily, Governor Romney could have defended his actions by reminding people that he answered to investors then, and that his actions were lawful, blah, blah, blah. Instead, however, he chose the "wasn't me" defense.

So why does this all matter. Well, I think we're in "it's not the act, it's the coverup" territory. Governor Romney dealt with residency issues in 2002, when he decided he wanted to become the Governor of Massachusetts and faced a residency challenge. His testimony suggested involvement with Bain between 1999 and 2002, and his words were offered to support his ties with Massachusetts.

Then there's the matter of the Securities and Exchange Commission filings, which identify Governor Romney, between 1999 and 2002, as the Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board and sole shareholder of Bain. Documents that are filed with the SEC matter, a fact that should not be lost on a man who graduated from the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Business School, and who wants to be the boss of our country.

Finally, the reports I hear indicate that Governor Romney received wages between 1999 and 2002. If he did, did Bain deduct those payments as ordinary and reasonable business expenses. If so, and if no services were provided--the story we get today--that's an issue. (I know nothing about Bain's corporate structure, but if Bain was a corporation it could not lawfully pay an employee for services if no services were rendered.)

Romney supporters may find my nits unimportant. And in the grand scheme, they may not matter. Certainly false documents get filed all the time, and it looks like whatever may have been false was inaccurate and not false for some illegal purpose. For me, though, the nits say plenty about character. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have summed things up best the other day when he observed that "it's really American to avoid paying taxes, legally." Admittedly, Senator Graham was making a point, to wit:  the tax code is really complicated, and it should be made simpler. Fine, but do we really want our President to be just like us? Not me, thank you very much. I want him or her to be a leader in all ways. Can't we ask for conduct that rises above the minimum threshold set forth in the tax code? Can't we expect a really wealthy man who's been running for President for six years to give up some of the sketchy deductions? Is there anyone who would fault the man if he told the trustee of his blind trust--a man who is, by the way, one of his closest friends, and a man who, for reasons unknown, managed to invest in a fund run by one of the Romneys' sons--to get every fricking dollar invested onshore, right here in America? And can't we, finally, ask the man who wants to lead us to take responsibility for a company he clearly owned, whether or not he was there on a daily basis?

In conclusion, I am well aware of the fact that Governor Romney is the not the first guy whose investments have presented issues. (I'm buried in the four-volume Lyndon Johnson series by Robert Caro--second time around, and a fabulous bio--and Governor Romney looks like a saint compared to LBJ.) These are difficult times, however, and we have every right to expect the most from our leaders. As bad as the last five years have been, when we've been under the sway of Wall Streeters with their "anything goes" mentality, I fear it'll be much worse if we hand the keys to the country over to a man like Mitt Romney. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


Later this summer my daughter and I will be driving to school--her school, my and Jane's alma mater--for her sophomore year. It's daddy/daughter time, and my chance for the road trip I've always wanted but never taken the time for!
Our route takes us from Tucson to the Grand Canyon and, then, to Winslow AZ. In Winslow we'll be eating at the Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel. We'll also take a moment to "take it easy, standin' on a corner in Winslow Arizona," although I'm sure there will be no girl "in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me." (BTW, bricks can be purchased for placement at Second and Kinsley in Winslow. We'll be looking for ours when we get there.)
The next morning we'll drive from Winslow to Pueblo CO, by way of Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM. No specific eating or sleeping plans.
Day three has us driving to the Mr. Rushmore SD area. Again, no specific plans.
Day four will find us looking at the Presidents and, then, traveling east to Sioux Falls SD. No plans, and maybe you are detecting a theme. Stay tuned!!!
Day five should be easy. Sioux Falls to Minneapolis MN, where my little sister lives. No plans, but no need for plans either. I'll be eating Walleye, and nothing else is set. (In fact, I'm not sure I've told my sister we're coming.)
Day six of the "out" part of the trip is really short. We drive from Minneapolis to Rockford IL, where my other sister lives.
Days seven and eight have us buying stuff and getting Cate settled in. Lots of heavy lifting, I'm sure. Think about every movie you've seen, where the student arrives and the goofy dad stumbles around under a load of boxes; I be him!
Monday morning--day nine--starts the solo journey. I will have five-six days to drive a minimum of 1692.88 miles, door to door. I plan to drive more southerly, but am very flexible.
So ... about the stay tuned! Cate's program involves photos--she's a very fine photographer--and I want to find safe, clean beds at night, good food all day and a very dry, very cold martini at the end of the day. I have lots of web-based blogs about eating, but we're not hitting culinary hot spots (other than the Turquoise Room on our first night out), and I haven't found especially great sources for places to see, spots to avoid, etc. So, my friends, I'd really appreciate any suggestions, recommendations, insights, etc. If our plans are bad in some respect or another, please offer a better idea, as we are committed to nothing other than getting to Rockford in no more than seven days, passing through Minneapolis and, pretty certainly, seeing the Grand Canyon. (I moved to Arizona at age four and was first at the Grand Canyon on my honeymoon at age 30. Cate, a native Arizonan, has never been.)
Thanks in advance.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again

Our daughter Cate matriculated at Beloit College, a fine, small liberal arts college in Beloit, Wisconsin. Beloit--the town, and the college within it--is located along the Wisconsin/Illinois border about 95 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. That Cate enrolled at Beloit College is totally fitting, as she would not be alive if Jane and I had not both been Beloit College students who happened to meet in the fall of 1977, as I was wrapping up my 3-1/2 years at Beloit and Jane was starting hers. (It did take us almost nine years to connect up for real, but that's another story!)

Beloit was not my home or Jane's before we arrived there. I was Tucson-raised, while Jane was born in Tennessee and attended high school in Virginia. Nevertheless, college provides a home for students, especially those who "go away." For me, for the better part of four years, Beloit was home. I did my laundry (when I did it at all) at a laundromat on Portland Ave. I drank my cocktails at the Golden Cove, where we all tried to see if we could leave, after paying, without Ben the bartender/owner saying goodbye. (We always failed; he was simply too observant!) I did my chilling outside in the winter, and when I say "chilling" I mean the cold kind. In the summer I helped fill with water and drop from a dorm roof the empty plastic bags that used to contain the milk you'd serve yourself from the stainless steel boxes. (We called the "droppings" unit displays, and for the "why" on that one you'd have to contact a  Basic Elmo! Never mind, as before you know it you'll be all into dropping toilets from fire escapes, etc.) I did my picketing--grapes were definitely NOT IN in the mid-1970s--in front of Salamone's, one of the local grocery stores.) And I ate my pizza at a small place that shall go nameless, down the street from Salamone's. Great pies with a very puffy crust. Eight slices, which always created an issue with three of us sharing. And so on. Yes, "so on" does include attending classes, learning stuff, making friends, etc.

I'd been back to Beloit a few times since 1977. I've also "kept up" over the years. I was my class agent, signing lots of letters, wondering why the class of 1978 gives markedly less than the classes of 1977 and 1979, and almost all of the other classes, too. (I also always listened politely to the fund development person explain why a generational shift that caught those people born mostly between late 1955 and 1956 caused a level of thriftiness not seen before or after, all the while knowing the lack of giving involved the identity of the asker.) I attended some reunions, and popped over to the campus once or twice while I was visiting my sister, who lives about 15 miles south of Beloit. Nevertheless, I missed plenty. (More accurately, plenty has occurred in the six or so years since we last visited.)

An amazing new science building sits on what used to be "the back way" down to the dirty, smelly river, which is not dirty or smelly any longer. The student union is located in a building that was closed and locked when we attended and the old student union barely makes the map. (Ask someone about the Smith Building and when it stopped being the union and you get dumb stares.) Athletic facilities are new, newer and in one instance not yet finished. (No reason, any longer, for the coin toss winner in football games to consider avoiding having to run uphill in the second half, as the field is now flat.)

When I arrived in Chicago in 1974 Mayor Richard J. Daley was the mayor. A bus met arriving Beloit students at O'Hare (which Mayor Daley called O'Hara). When we last visited in 2005, the Mayor was Richard M. Daley. (I don't know what he called the airport.) The mayor thing is significant because, in Chicago, signage identifying the mayor was always a big deal, although Mayor Rahm Emanuel must be preoccupied with the deficits Richie Daley left for him, as the signs have not been repainted.

The first day at Beloit College for me did not include my parents, who stayed behind in Tucson. Frankly, if anyone's parents showed up, the event has been lost to the ages. That said, I can't imagine anyone being uncool enough to let his/her parents be seen in 1974.

Now, there are parental events, just for the 'rents. Had we stayed home, our daughter would have likely been branded as "unwanted" or worse. The attending 'rents all look younger than our parents looked when we started college although our parents were almost a decade and a half younger than Jane and I are now.

As for Beloit the town, there is the clean river. Salamone's is long gone, and downtown has a store called Bushel & Peck's, a grocery store and cafe that sells locally grown organic produce. (The only thing worth picketing now is Governor Walker and, as for him, one hopes the recall election will soon turn him into a bad memory!) And, alas, the pizza joint must have new owners, because the crusts taste like cardboard and the pizza maker must have graduated from the "more cheese is always better" school!

What you have read so far was written in August 2011, days after Cate started her first semester. Now, with the chance for this piece to sit idly--and for Cate to be anything but idle--for the last eight months or so, I am delighted about how Cate is progressing and amazed by the pace of a full life. I also wish I could be a college freshman today!!! Alas, the title says it all ... !

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reflections and “Epiphanies” From the Social Venture Partners International Winter Conference in Scottsdale

From my life as a member of a venture philanthropy partnership--Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson--here's a piece I posted early today. For more information about SVPGT, go to www.svpgt.org, "like" SVPGT on Facebook or contact me.

There is an old adage about seminars:  Learn one thing and you’ve gotten your money’s worth! I attended the Social Venture Partners Turn Up the Heat: Next-Level Strategies for SVP Winter Conference in Scottsdale on April 16-17. I went to two programs, learned two big things and got a great reminder about the value of Social Venture Partners. Oh, and there was an EPIPHANY! Pretty good value!!!

First, I attended a dinner focused on collective impact. Several presenters related collective impact experiences in their communities. The issues on which these communities focused varied, although most of them worked on education. The players were different, community by community, and the processes also differed. One strand, however, was evident throughout:  Successful endeavors require a substantial amount of time, talent and treasure, and a total devotion to measurable outcomes.

Can we “do” collective impact in Tucson? The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona is, already! As for “can we,” if the “we” is Social Venture Partners, I think the answer is “not right now,” for we lack the capital and other resources that are necessary to be successful. Can we use our social capital to help make things happen in our community? Absolutely, and I hope and expect that we’ll be discussing this issue in the coming months.

Second, I attended The Art and Science of Fund Development, a full-day program about fund development issues. The big takeaway:  Words really matter!  Framing the way in which we communicate about Social Venture Partners—about why we do what we do, and how what we do matters—drives our level of success in broadening our support base. Of course, the message that words matter is not new, but the presentations about how we share our stories allowed me to see the issue from new perspectives. I deal with words every day from 8 to 5. I know they matter greatly. (Sometimes I tell people I am a technical writer whose forum happens to be the courts). Now I also know I need to give to my SVP life the same attention to words that I give them in my work life.

I also had an epiphany about the fund development side of Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson. There are epiphanies, though, and then there are EPIPHANIES! I had a few epiphanies during the session, and the EPIPHANY on the drive home from Scottsdale. The EPIPHANY:  We own Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson. We own this partnership, all of us, in the same way in which we own real estate, stocks and bonds, businesses, and other assets. We have made an investment, and now we are responsible for it. What that means, and how it translates into action, requires more thought and plenty of conversation. For now, I’m thinking about it and I hope and expect that it will be part of our conversation in the coming months.

Of course, spending time with Partners always adds value to my life. The SVP network includes a really fine bunch of dedicated, interesting people. Being with them is truly pleasurable!