How did Ray Dalio build one of the world’s largest hedge funds and become the 58th richest person in America? By following a set of rules he’d learned through experience to be vital to all of his endeavors. One he calls “radical transparency.” In his book, “Principles: Life and Work,” Dalio writes that “Being radically truthful and transparent with your colleagues and expecting your colleagues to be the same with you ensures that important issues are apparent instead of hidden.”
Makes sense. Transparency is a basic principle of good government even more than in business, a fundamental democratic principle. For people to properly monitor their government, they must know what’s being done in their name.
So why isn’t radical transparency part of the game plan for Dalio and Gov. Ned Lamont as they launch the Partnership for Connecticut?
The goal of this public-private partnership is a good one – to provide job training and improve graduation rates for disadvantaged students. And you have to admire the Dalios for contributing $100 million to such an important cause.
But there’s a catch. Connecticut taxpayers will also contribute up to $100 million to the partnership – but with little knowledge as to how their money will be spent. Why? Because the partnership received a complete exemption from the standard ethics and freedom of information laws that normally govern all state programs like these – laws designed to hold our government officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer money.
No explanation has been given for this unprecedented exemption, except that the foundation does not want the press and public watching everything the agency does, even though they will be spending just as much taxpayer money as Dalio’s money. So much for transparency!
At the partnership’s inaugural meeting last week, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowitz suggested that he and fellow elected officials can’t be trusted to practice transparency. “I’ve been at the state Capitol for 16 years and the deliberations you see in public are nothing more than pandering to people’s base.” This comes on the heels of previous comments that the grass roots no toll effort, notollsct.org, should be ignored because they are simply part of the “noisy public.”
This disregard for the role of the people in creating good government has haunted Connecticut for decades. The public is entitled to full transparency for the spending of taxpayer money, entitled to know exactly how and why that spending came about, not just where it’s going. Parents deserve to know how critical decisions affecting their children’s education are made. Otherwise, how do we know that the Partnership for Connecticut is actually working for Connecticut? Our state government has seen enough slush funds already.
If the Dalios had wanted to donate to a private charity and keep things secret, they could have done that. But when they co-mingle their money with taxpayer money, the governor — and other elected officials — shouldn’t take it as an opportunity to keep the public in the dark.
Determining how and where to fund education is one of government’s most important responsibilities. It’s wonderful that the Dalios want to invest in that critical mission, but when entering the public sphere they should not get to bring their own rules — they should be required to live by ours. One need look no further than Governor Lamont’s refusal to release $30 million in aid to towns for normal road maintenance until he gets a vote on tolls, to see that that the public trust is ignored far too readily.
Ray Dalio’s philosophy about radical transparency helped build a multi-billion-dollar business. Secrecy, back-office deals, and special favors for key voting blocs have delivered one of the worst economies in the nation to Connecticut.
Connecticut’s General Assembly should repeal the exemptions for the Partnership for Connecticut and make it subject to normal ethics and freedom-of-information laws, providing Connecticut taxpayers with the transparency and accountability they deserve.
There’s nothing radical about that.
Bob Stefanowski was the 2018 Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut.