Arizona state treasurer nominated for NASA financial officer

Jeff DeWit

Courtesy

Jeff DeWit

PHOENIX – The appointment of state Treasurer Jeff DeWit to a position in the Trump administration sets the stage for Gov. Doug Ducey to name a replacement.

But it won’t be either of the two Republicans who already are vying to get elected in 2018.

Trump has nominated DeWit to be the chief financial officer for NASA. The treasurer said Thursday he believes his financial skills will help the space agency.

“It’s a $20 billion budget,’’ he said. “It’s an agency that I think all Americans want to see do well.’’

But while DeWit does not expect to be in Arizona through the balance of his term which ends the last day of December 2018, he isn’t leaving any time soon. He said it could take months before he gets the required Senate confirmation.

That gives the governor time to consider who should take his place, at least in the interim.

Ducey said he has not given any thought to the question, given that he only just found out about the nomination himself. About the only thing that is clear is that Ducey has to name a registered Republican like DeWit.

The governor said he has not decided whether he wants to name someone who might want the job on a more permanent basis. That would give whoever he selects the benefit of incumbency in the 2018 campaign.

But the Arizona Constitution prohibits sitting legislators from taking any other state job during the term for which they were elected. That eliminates Sen. Kimberly Yee of Phoenix from consideration.

There is no such legal constraint on Tom Forese, a former legislator who now is chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission. But while Forese wants the job he’s not interested in it just yet.

“There’s plenty of work still to be done here, plenty of unfinished projects,’’ he told Capitol Media Services.

“I won’t be seeking the appointment,’’ Forese continued. “I intend to win the office through the campaign.’’

Filling out the balance of his term with a “caretaker’’ is just fine with DeWit. In fact, he said there are several people already working in his office – he won’t name names – who he said could walk in and do his job.

The treasurer has historically been a largely invisible post to most voters, with the office responsible for investing the state’s funds and paying its bills.

Ducey, who was elected to the post in 2010, changed that a bit by deciding to lead the opposition to a 2012 ballot measure which would have made permanent the temporary one-cent sales tax that voters had approved in 2010.

DeWit, for his part, became part of the campaign last year against Proposition 123, a Ducey-crafted deal to settle a lawsuit the schools filed against the state for failing to meet its legal obligations to increase aid each year to account for inflation.

The treasurer pointed out that in Ducey’s efforts to avoid a tax hike, he was instead taking money from a special trust account whose proceeds already were set aside for public education. The result, DeWit said, is there will be less money available for schools after 2025.

Voters approved the measure anyway, albeit by just a narrow margin.

DeWit said he’s not anticipating any trouble getting confirmed despite a 2010 order by NASDAQ slapping him with a censure and a $100,000 fine for activities of Echotrade, a securities firm he founded and was chairman and chief executive.

NASDAQ cited him for what it said were illegal trading practices. DeWit entered into a consent decree without admitting any guilt.

“I’ve already been precleared,’’ he said. “So I don’t foresee any issues.’’

And DeWit said he has no second thoughts about going to work for what has been a controversial and, in some quarters, unpopular administration.

“You know, I was the COO (chief operating officer) of the campaign,’’ he said, and is quite familiar with Trump and his policies. Nor is he deterred by anything the president has done taking office in January.

“Anything I can do to help the administration be successful, I want to do, and anything I can do to help the president be successful,’’ DeWit said.

“I think one thing all Americans should be pulling for is that the administration and the president are successful,’’ he continued. “From whatever side of the aisle they’re on, when our president is successful our country is successful.’’