The News Journal reporting on Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flower trip to Alaska has produced a lot of discussion. Newsworks cartoonist Rob Tornoe has his view too.
Here is Rob’s commentary.
Tom Carper and Jack Markell have one thing in common – both use the office of State Treasure to create a path to becoming Governor. Chip Flowers seems to want to be the next politician to follow that path, but he may have damaged his chances with a couple of boneheaded decisions, and his seeming inability to run his office. Chip has been on the front page of the News Journal the last couple of days after it was revealed he and his former deputy, the embattled Erika Benner (who was forced to resign after putting thousands of dollars in personal expenses on her state-issued credit card), spent a couple of days following a National Association of State Treasures conference in Alaska sightseeing. Political cartoonists like myself love a good crook, but honestly, looking at the reporting and Flower’s subsequent responses, it’s hard to find anything illegal he did. It seems both he and Benner paid their own expenses for a plane excursion to visit Denali National Park for a couple of hours in their spare time, and what expenses were initially picked up by the taxpayer have been subsequently paid by Flowers. We’re hardly talking high crimes and misdemeanors here. About the largest potential “controversy” I can see is the fact that Benner reserved a room for two people and declared enough food expense to more than cover meals for two. So did Flowers, despite his denials, accompany her? It could be potentially scandalous if he did, but at this point there’s not much evidence to suggest it. Still, Chip hasn’t exactly helped himself out with his blind ambition to become governor and the “it’s not my fault” attitude he’s exhibited throughout this entire ordeal. Also, if he wants to be governor, should his first qualification be to run the office of the Treasure effectively? Between infighting with the administration and his inability to pay better attention to the stuff his staff is buying with their credit cards, Chip seems in over his head at managing the first rung on his political ladder. It’s also disappointing he’s not simply able to own up to any mistakes he might have made. First, after discovering Benner used her credit card for personal expenses, he made the point that it was not a big deal, since she agreed to pay the money back. Once the media attention focused however, he pulled a hasty retreat, throwing Benner under the bus and blaming the Department of Finance for not alerting him to Benner’s credit card reconciliations. Then, when the News Journal discovered more potential improper uses of the state issued card on this Alaska trip, Flowers claimed he wasn’t there, until a tipster shared pictures of Flowers in Denali State Park Chip himself uploaded onto his Facebook page. So is Chip Flowers some modern-day swindler, taking advantage of the taxpayers and using state-issued credit cards to live the high life? Hardly. He’s just the latest in a long-line of bonehead politicians who care more about politics as a career than they do as a job. Hang on, let me turn my radio up… it’s a Chip Flowers campaign ad on WDEL, despite the fact there’s no election here in Delaware that I’m aware of. Sigh. —— Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Check out more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on Twitter @RobTornoe.