Hank Brown: The Senator with a CPA's View of Washington

By Miller, Stephen M. | Journal of Accountancy, May 1991 | Go to article overview

Hank Brown: The Senator with a CPA's View of Washington


Miller, Stephen M., Journal of Accountancy


Hank Brown was always interested in accounting. As an undergraduate it was his major at the University of Colorado and through an accounting internship he worked for Eastman Kodak while in college.

Brown had planned to join a CPA firm

after graduating in 1961 but instead he volunteered

for a four-year stint in the Navy,

including a year in Vietnam (and earned an

Air Medal with two gold stars, a Naval Unit

Citation, the Vietnam Service Medal and

National Defense Medal).

Returning home in 1966, he entered law

school at the University of Colorado, working

part-time for Arthur Andersen's Denver

office to help pay his bills. Again, he

intended to join a CPA firm after receiving

his law degree in 1969, but instead he accepted

a position with Monfort, Inc., the

nation's largest cattle feeding operation.

Hank Brown never lid find permanent

employment as a CPA but he obtained commendable

employment elsewhere: Last

year he was elected to the Senate from Colorado,

becoming the first U. S. Senator who

is an accredited CPA.

A "CREATIVE ACCOUNTING PRIZE"

FOR CONGRESS?

"If we ever give out prizes for creative accounting,

Congress will certainly head the list," remarks Brown, during an interview in which he lamented the lack of a basic understanding of accounting by those who set the nation's fiscal policies. "The very bizarre system that Congress uses does exactly what it's designed to do," says Brown. "It obfuscates the unfortunate fiscal policy the nation has."

It's one of the things Brown would like to see changed, and he may get the chance. Brown was recently appointed to the Budget Committee, which he terms "a great forum to work from to straighten out fiscal policy."

The 51-year-old Republican, a native Coloradan, is well-acquainted with the need to "straighten out" the nation's endemic problems, fiscal and otherwise. Regarded as moderate on social issues while fiscally conservative, Brown arrived in Washington in 1980 as a U.S. Representative from Colorado's largely agricultural 4th District.

By 1988 the Almanac of American Politics had deemed Brown "one of the most effective Republicans in the House," partly for his work on the Ways and Means Committee, and the National Taxpayers' Union named him a "taxpayer's friend." On an office shelf Brown displays the line of "Golden Bulldog" statuettes he's received from a group called Watchdogs of the Treasury.

Brown also gained a reputation for both his courtesy and tenacity-qualities that have helped him on several occasions to negotiate legislative compromises between liberals and conservatives.

His interests range to other matters as well, including conservation. He shepherded through Congress legislation guaranteeing federal protection for Colorado's Cache La Poudre River and helped expand the boundaries of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Commuting between the Senate and Greeley, Colorado, every week to be with his family-his wife Nan and their three children-leaves Brown with little spare time, although he admits to a love for skiing whenever he can find the time.

THE VALUE OF "PRATICAL EXPERIENCE"

One of the biggest problems with Congress is too many members never had the chance to work for a living, Brown is convinced. "It's had disastrous consequences in terms of national policy," he says. "It's not that they're evil or bad people, it's that they simply don't have the practical experience to understand the effect of what they do."

He gives as an example what happened when Congress required companies to adopt the calendar year for tax purposes. "The suggestion that you're going to have everybody on the same fiscal year is ludicrous," he asserts. …

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