Beacon Journal/ editorial board: Robert Sprague for state treasurer

Akron Beacon Journal/

Oct 12, 2018

The job of Ohio treasurer cuts something less than a prominent profile. The treasurer serves as the state’s banker and investment manager. Josh Mandel, who has held the office the past eight years and now faces term limits, has brought more attention to the job, though not always in a flattering way. One good thing he has achieved is the Open Checkbook, state spending online for the public to see.

In this campaign season, the two candidates vying to be his successor have pledged to do more with the Open Checkbook and outlined other expanded ambitions for the office. How much could Rob Richardson or Robert Sprague accomplish? The treasurer’s post hardly has been designed as a policy shop. What is encouraging is seeing two well-qualified candidates thinking about how to deploy the office in new ways to serve Ohioans.

That said, one candidate does make the stronger case. We recommend the election of Robert Sprague on Nov. 6.

Sprague currently is serving his third term in the Ohio House. The Findlay Republican has been a valuable contributor to the Finance Committee and took the lead in chairing the Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety Task Force. He knows the operations of state government.

More, the background he brings to the Statehouse makes him a solid fit in the treasurer’s office. After gaining a mechanical engineering degree at Duke, he entered the problem-solving work of a management consultant for Ernst & Young in Atlanta. He eventually founded his own investment consulting firm. After he sold to a partner, he returned to Findlay with his family.

Once there, Sprague served as city treasurer and then auditor, helping in the recovery from a devastating flood and in navigating rough patches for local companies. Next came the legislature, and now he has big ideas for the treasurer’s office.

Sprague would add a “smart” element to the Open Checkbook, allowing for comparisons across agencies and benchmarking of spending. Most notably, he would explore the use of “social impact bonds,” a funding mechanism for private-public partnerships to solve problems, the state paying for improved social outcomes that result in public savings.

If the project flops, the state would be off the hook. The idea is to take advantage of private sector innovation. Yet what makes Sprague the better choice is his experience, know-how and track record in the nuts and bolts of the treasurer’s work.

Rob Richardson knows sophisticated financing, too. The Cincinnati Democrat is a securities litigation attorney. He gained his engineering and law degrees at the University of Cincinnati. In 2008, he returned to the university as a trustee, with time as board president, helping lead the school in difficult and productive periods.

Richardson sees the treasurer’s office as a vehicle for holding the powerful accountable and expanding opportunity to improve lives. The former involves increased transparency about the flow of public money, say, to private prison firms or for-profit charter schools. The latter translates to seeking ways to ease the burden of student debt.

Both pursuits would push the boundaries of the office. The difference in this race is that Robert Sprague has the greater preparation for the full range of the job.

Robert Sprague for Ohio treasurer: endorsement editorial

The Cleveland Plain Dealer/ Editorial Board

October 5, 2018

A politician named Robert will be the next Ohio treasurer; it’s up to the voters which Robert it will be. One is term-limited GOP state Rep. Robert Sprague of Findlay, a former city auditor and treasurer who’s represented his part of Northwest Ohio in Columbus since 2011. The other is lawyer Rob Richardson of Cincinnati, who served on the University of Cincinnati board of trustees from 2008 to 2016, becoming the board’s youngest chair in 2016, and who ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati mayor in the Democratic primary last year.

Richardson, 39, sure-footed in debate and passionate about issues of equity and diversity in Ohio public life, clearly has a bright political future ahead of him. But the ideas he puts forth for what he would do as Ohio treasurer — including divesting the state from certain investments and using the job to advance his public policy goals, including ending Ohio’s use of private prisons — appear to infringe on what should be legislative prerogatives. They also risk conflicting with the treasurer’s No. 1 responsibility, making sure Ohio’s money is managed in a skillful, careful and transparent way.

Being state treasurer, albeit a partisan elected office, carries serious fiduciary responsibilities, including managing the state’s $21.5 billion in investments and keeping safe more than $200 billion in other assets, including holdings of the state’s five public pension funds.

Robert Sprague, 45. who has championed bipartisan approaches to the opioid epidemic, two years ago undertook a listening tour of the state with other legislators to gauge the breadth of the overdose crisis in Ohio. He appears to have the needed focus and cautious, thoughtful approach to this all-important side of the treasurer’s job. He also wants to implement needed innovations that include the possible issuance of social impact bonds, to attract private money to the fight against opioid addiction.

Both candidates say they’ll work to expand current Treasurer Josh Mandel’s successful initiatives, including his online checkbook to shine a light on government spending, and the recently established STABLE accounts, an investment vehicle for developmentally disabled individuals that’s already attracted 28,000 accounts — about half from Ohioans and half from outside the state, according to Sprague.

Robert Sprague is the superior candidate in this race. Voters should elect Robert Sprague the next treasurer of Ohio.

Dispatch Editorial: For state treasurer: Robert Sprague offers better experience 

The Columbus Dispatch

October 1, 2018

However the vote comes out Nov. 6, Ohio voters will choose an engineer as their next state treasurer, and The Dispatch believes Republican Robert Sprague has an edge in experience that makes him the better choice.

Sprague, 45, is a state representative from Findlay. The Democratic contender is Rob Richardson, 39, a securities litigator from Cincinnati.

Both have undergraduate engineering degrees plus graduate credentials. Sprague couples mechanical engineering with an MBA; Richardson combines electrical engineering with a law degree. And it’s how they’ve applied their education that elevates Sprague’s qualifications.

In the legislature since 2011, Sprague has experience both as an elected official and as a government administrator, having served as city treasurer and auditor in Findlay before being appointed and then elected to the legislature.

With an MBA specializing in finance, Sprague worked as an Ernst & Young management consultant and then with his own investment consulting firm before returning home to Findlay. His business and government experience and education are more directly relevant to the treasurer’s office.

Richardson is the more charismatic of the two, but that will carry him only so far.

He served nine years on the University of Cincinnati board as a rare Democrat among Republicans and was able to effectively cross partisan lines, as evidenced by serving a year as president and being a board-elected officer five of his nine years on the board. During his tenure UC went from $20,000 in cash reserves to $300 million while also increasing enrollment and building aggressively.

During his time as a state representative, Sprague has developed a reputation for being sincerely committed to addressing Ohio’s drug addiction crisis, taking it on with legislative proposals as early as 2015.

As treasurer, Sprague would address drug addiction innovatively by creating “social impact bonds” through which investors could fund successful treatment programs, bringing in private capital to deal with the problem, not just throwing more tax dollars at it.

Granted, Sprague’s commitment to addressing the opioid crisis is not the best fit for the state treasurer’s office, but his education and experience should allow him to fulfill all statutory requirements of the job and leave room for him to test pioneering approaches for tackling one of the state’s most-pressing problems.

Richardson also has some good ideas for ways the treasurer could creatively respond to state issues that are not directly in the treasurer’s purview. He would oppose state investments in for-profit prisons and charter schools and would offer low-interest loans for college students who agree to stay in Ohio.

It is also commendable that Richardson started the first college NAACP chapter at UC, following somewhat in the footsteps of his father, Robert Richardson Sr., a national labor leader and head of the Cincinnati NAACP. But Richardson has no elective office experience, having only run for Cincinnati mayor in 2017.

Sprague’s good relations with the General Assembly are a plus.

For state treasurer, The Dispatch endorses Robert Sprague.

Sprague Visits Greene County

July 19, 2018

Xenia Daily Gazette

State Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) made a campaign stop in his bid for Treasurer of State July 16 at the Greene County Republican Headquarters. Sprague was the featured speaker at the first lunch with legislators and shared his vision for the treasurer’s office. Sprague outlined his commitment to working with public and private sector leaders to implement a social impact bond program through the Treasurer of State’s Office.

Candidate for treasurer makes stop at Cleveland Electric in Twinsburg

June 29, 2018

My Town NEO

TWINSBURG — State Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) visited Twinsburg as part of his campaign for Treasurer of State.

Sprague toured Twinsburg’s Cleveland Electric Laboratories to discuss workforce development and his platform.

“Cleveland Electric Laboratories Co. was honored to host Ohio Rep. Robert Sprague at our Twinsburg corporate offices June 28. After spending time with Rep. Sprague, we were able to provide a tour of our thermocouple manufacturing plant,” said Jack Allan Lieske, President & CEO. “It was an honor to show off our 98-year old Ohio family business.”

In his private sector career, Sprague served as a management consultant for Ernst and Young where he advised companies world-wide on complex business matters before owning and operating his own investment consulting business.

As a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, Sprague served on the finance committee and chaired the subcommittee overseeing one of the largest areas of state spending.

Sprague resides in his hometown of Findlay with his wife, Amanda, and their five children, Cole, Davis, Graham, Tate, and Mary Hannah.

Letter: ‘Denial, Ohio’ campaign shows public/private cooperation

June 25, 2018

I urge everyone, especially parents, to visit the website to view the powerful new public-service announcement and campaign aimed at preventing opioid abuse.

As a father of five children, I understand how difficult it can be to acknowledge that the threat of drug abuse and addiction spares no one. This campaign is a wake-up call that merits vast distribution so that parents across our state are emboldened to take the first step and open a dialogue with their children about the grave consequences of prescription-drug abuse.

Behind this ad, however, is an equally important message that deserves attention about the good that can be done when the public and private sectors come together to help their community. The comprehensive media effort, spearheaded by the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, takes the type of all-hands-on-deck approach that is critical to effectively battling this deadly epidemic.

As a state representative, I see the increasing amount of pressure placed on our state and local budgets as a result of the opioid crisis. In order to give us the strongest ability to overcome this challenge, I believe we must harness the innovative spirit of the private sector and tap into a funding stream that is not solely reliant on taxpayer dollars.

One way the government can encourage this is through social-impact bonds — a type of pay-for-success financing model. Social-impact bonds foster partnerships between the public and private sectors: The private market develops new programs, but the public sector pays only if the programs deliver results.

In the last state budget, I sponsored language that authorized the use of social-impact bonds and as state treasurer, I plan to further promote this program as a new way to help address some of Ohio’s greatest, and most expensive, challenges. The creation of the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance demonstrates that the desire exists within the private sector to make a positive difference; let’s make sure they have all the tools they need to do so.

State Rep. Robert C. Sprague, Findlay

Republican candidate for state treasurer