‘Voters out there are frustrated,” said an analyst on a cable news station I flipped on the other day. It could have been almost any news show. Any political angle. Any evening.
The analyst cited a “lack of disclosure” as the root cause of the problem. Not so, insisted someone in a suit on the set. It’s about conflicts of interest, he said, an absence of objectivity.
If I had been alone, I would have turned this off. But I was not in charge. My CPA wife, Kathy, held up her hand. Just as I feared, she was waving a crumpled printout that lives under our coffee table these days.
It isn’t a copy of the Constitution, though it looks a bit like that from a distance. It is a synopsis she unearthed of the American Institute of CPAs’ code of professional conduct.
I knew what was coming.
While some may yawn about or be mildly troubled by a president who doesn’t disclose his tax returns, Kathy and her fellow objectivity-obsessed CPAs are fuming about this lack of clarity and openness.
Kathy’s bursts of occupational pride started me thinking. Shouldn’t our government officials be held to, at the very least, the same behavioral benchmarks as members of my wife’s workaday, white-collar profession?
And what about our elections themselves — fraught these days with accusations of gerrymandered districts, limited access to polls and voter fraud. Could CPAs be of any help here?
After analyzing the matter during a commercial, I am confident they could. Here are some of my proposals:
- Appoint top accounting firms to monitor the U.S. election process. If voting for the Oscars is important enough to be chaperoned by the firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, isn’t it time the federal government took note and held our national elections to the same unimpeachable standard? OK, so there was some minor confusion at the Oscars this year, but compared with electoral flubs like hanging and dimpled chads, it’s hardly worth mentioning.
- Establish a CPA voting oversight commission. This appointed authority would report to no one in particular — aside from voters, that is — and ensure that accountants are involved at every level of voting, and are present at polling stations from coast to coast.
- Assign “ethics buddies” to government officials. Since CPAs are trained to understand the need for integrity in the workplace — while many officials seem confused by the concept — the solution is obvious. Team them up.
- Replace secretaries of state — who are responsible for elections in their states — with accountants. As of this writing, more than half of the nation’s secretaries of state are elected officials complete with party affiliations and the usual political biases. So, the instant we remove each of the offending secretaries and appoint opinion-challenged accountants in their place, problems like whimsical polling hours and unpredictable ID checks disappear in a flash.
- Eradicate gerrymandering by certifying districts. Redistricting is at the root of debates over our elections, but this needn’t be so. CPAs understand certification like no one else, so let’s set teams of them loose to audit all congressional districts. Once the lines are appropriately apolitical, a special congressional district certification seal would be issued, preserving the approved boundaries each new decade. Problem solved.
I’m looking forward to the day when these long-overdue electoral repairs are enacted and the nation’s public accountants become public servants in even more profound ways. Their wise and consistent influence will usher in a golden age of objectivity in American politics.
Not to mention the fact that my wife will be a whole lot calmer in the evenings while we watch TV.
Peter Mandel is an author of children’s books.