Applicant Lanhee Chen is asking you to hire him for the role of controller, which pays $174,843 per year. His resume:
Program director, Stanford University (on leave)
Lanhee Chen has advised a number of political campaigns, but now he’s making a bid of his own. A lecturer and fellow at Stanford, Chen started his political career as a lobbyist before a three-month health care fellowship at the Heritage Foundation, including research critical of Obamacare.
He’s been dubbed by Politico as the Republican Party’s “most-courted ideas advisor,” and has worked on presidential campaigns for George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio. And while it’s an uphill battle for a Republican to win any statewide office in California (Chen says this should be a nonpartisan office), his pitch is that someone outside the dominant party will be a stronger and more independent watchdog over the state’s finances. He pledges to use the office to increase transparency and understanding, to spotlight problems and longer-term policy decisions and to restore public faith in state government. For instance, he is highly critical of the state’s oversight of the Employment Development Department.
Chen took the ambiguous route during the lead-up to the primary on his support for former President Donald Trump and his stance on abortion. But after finishing first – and after pressure from Democrat Malia Cohen, who won second place – he told CalMatters he wrote in Mitt Romey for president in 2016, and left the question blank in 2020. He also clarified his stance on abortion, but not before criticizing Cohen for making it a central part of her campaign: “I support women’s reproductive freedoms. And that includes access to family planning services, to contraceptives and abortions, as allowed under California law.”
Program director, lecturer and fellow, Stanford University
Chen was the David and Diane Steffy Fellow in American Public Policy Studies at the Hoover Institution, the director of domestic policy studies and a lecturer in public policy and lecturer at Stanford Law School, January 2014-April 2018.
Political commentator, CNN
January 2021-July 2021
Board chairperson, El Camino Health
El Camino Hospital is a community-based, nonprofit health care provider in the San Francisco area.
Member, Social Security Advisory Board
September 2014–September 2018
Appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the federal board on the Social Security program to the president, Congress and commissioner of Social Security.
Advisor to Mitt Romney’s Free & Strong America PAC in 2011 and policy director for his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
Deputy campaign manager and policy director for Steve Poizner in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
Domestic policy advisor for George W. Bush presidential campaign from June-November 2004.
Senior counselor to the deputy secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
May 2008-November 2008
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“It’s not about ideology. It’s about competence.”
Here’s where Lanhee Chen, applicant for controller, stands on the big questions about California’s budget, pensions and taxes. Answers are from a sit-down interview:
While the state budget is awash in surplus cash, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office and other watchdogs have repeatedly questioned whether all that money is being spent wisely or effectively.
“Where the challenges are is pretty manifest given the amount of money, for example, we spend on K through 12, on issues relating to health care, whether it’s Medi-Cal or IHSS or behavioral health care and mental health care.”
“Let’s be really precise about where the fraud is happening. In EDD, we know there was fraud and we know what the amount roughly is….Waste is a little tougher to quantify, because one person’s waste is another person’s treasure.”
Even though the economy is rebounding from COVID, California still has among the nation’s highest jobless rates and hasn’t recovered all the jobs lost. Experts say the pandemic widened the gap between California’s rich and poor in some ways, despite unprecedented direct relief.
“My concern with one-time type solutions is precisely that they are one-time type solutions, that if the conditions persist we will be talking about six months from now another one-time solution, which doesn’t get at the fundamental question of where’s the flow of funds in the taxes and fees we charge on a gallon of gas right now?”
“Okay, so do we have a tax system designed for the transition to a service-based economy? Probably not. And so we need to take a good, hard look at what that means for our state taxation system.”
“I do not. I believe if you look at our tax collections have increased year over year over the last several years, California has the revenue it needs to be a successful and good, compassionate state….I’m not even sure it’s constitutional quite frankly.”
In the short term, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators are urging the state’s two huge public employee pension funds to divest from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. In the longer term, CalPERS and CalSTRS both face huge amounts of unfunded debt, forcing them to consider riskier investments in search of higher returns.
“We have made promises to state employees and teachers, we need to keep those promises. But we will be unable to keep them without, in my view, massive tax increases….Can we pay down some of those long term obligations? The Legislature’s done a little bit of that to their credit, and the governor has agreed, but we need to be doing more.”
“I believe as a general matter that these calls to divest in one thing or another are misguided…With specific reference to the situation in Russia I would favor some removal of state investment in those resources….First of all, it’s a very small percentage of our total investments….And the notion that we are assisting the Russian war machine I think creates a fundamental national security challenge.”
“I don’t have any specific recommendations at this time, but I believe one of the things a controller should do is take their role on both the PERS and STRS board seriously.”