CPA Status Boosts Political Candidate’s Chances

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While confessing to cutting down a cherry tree contributed to a reputation for trust that helped George Washington guide the country as president more than two centuries ago, Bruce Brown is hopeful that his CPA license will provide the legacy that helps him get elected as Wyoming's next state auditor.

Brown, chief financial officer for the Neiman Enterprises lumber company in Hulett, Wyo., who previously worked for Ernst & Young and the former Peat Marwick (before the merger that created KPMG Peat Marwick), is running for the Republican Party nomination confident that his CPA and business experience makes him the best-qualified candidate.

“As CPAs, we agree to be held to higher standards, we have CPE requirements that keep us on top of major issues, and we have an ability to make decisions that are grounded in numbers and facts, rather than being swayed by political thinking. That should all be beneficial,” Brown told AccountingWeb. He also noted that his campaign, launched at the start of February, is well on its ways to raising the $60, 0000 to $100,000 he expects will be needed to get it through to the Aug. 22 primary.

A newcomer to politics, Brown, 50, says he is not at all intimidated by the political process and that his status as an outsider should help. “”I hope to bring to the table some private sector common sense and the unique perspective that CPAs are able to have,” he said.

He added that the electorate may well respect the CPA perspective more now than it would have a few years ago during the heat of the national accounting scandals. “I think the scandals have passed away from the public's mind. The Enron people are being dealt with and Arthur Andersen is now gone,” he noted.

In Wyoming, the state auditor does not audit, but instead, according to Brown, serves primarily as controller, with duties such as overseeing the payments of bills and preparing financial statements.

Brown, who has been active in both the state and regional workforce and economic development agencies and the state's manufacturing association, has set a broad list of goals as auditor: develop programs that teach good work habits to young people, help unions develop training programs, and get private business and recreation sector representatives to participate in land use decisions. His employer, Neiman, gets 65 percent of the lumber it uses from federal lands, according to the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper.

Brown joined Nieman and returned to his home state after a brief stint of running his own public CPA practice in Tempe, AZ. He previously worked in the Phoenix, AZ., offices of Peat Marwick and Ernst & Young.

Recent history of CPAs making runs for state financial oversight office may not bode well for Brown. In 1998 and 2002, W. Snow Hume, a Fullerton, CA., CPA, lost separate bids for the Republican nomination as California's controller.

Still, Brown likes his chances even though his competition for the nomination is expected to include at least one higher-profile candidate -- Rita Meyer, who had been chief of staff to the state's former Governor, Jim Geringer. Brown noted, “She may be politically connected, but she's no CPA. It's really time the auditor's office has a CPA.”

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