The Definition of a Conflict of Interest
Photo credit: Thomas Duda
The Tax Credit Review Commission held its regional meeting in a veritable monument to the tax credit programs they review: the Old Post Office building in downtown Saint Louis. It’s borderline poetic. From an article by Brian Hook in the Missouri Watchdog:
The DESCO Group and DFC Group developed a plan, using tax credits, to restore the [Old Post Office] building in 2000. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, moved into the building in 2006.
Steve Stogel, co-chair of the Tax Credit Review Commission, is president of DFC Group in St. Louis.
Additionally, some individuals cited in their testimonies a recent study from Saint Louis University that evaluates the historic preservation tax credit program. After I delivered my testimony, co-chair Chuck Gross even handed me a paper copy.
The SLU study has a peculiar list of financial supporters:
Downtown Council of Kansas City
Kansas City Port Authority
Missouri Growth Association
Missouri Municipal League
Partnership for Downtown St. Louis
Urban District Alliance of Springfield
Listed first is DFC Group, which is co-chair Stogel’s company. The other organizations are groups that receive direct, concentrated benefits from tax credit programs. The Missouri Growth Association, for instance, is a trade association of commercial property owners, managers and developers. Also well represented in this list are city bureaucrats, a group with incentives to grow the size of government.
Isn’t this the very definition of a conflict of interest? How can the Tax Credit Commission evaluate the effectiveness of these programs objectively and fairly if its leadership uses tax credits to earn a living? How can the commission have sound judgment if it bases its decisions on studies for which the leadership paid?