Forsee's letter opposing cap-and-trade legislation draws attention

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | 7:03 p.m. CST; updated 10:53 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee's business interests are drawing attention after he recently expressed opposition to federal climate change legislation.

Forsee is urging Missouri's congressional delegation to oppose the cap-and-trade legislation.

Some students and faculty on the Columbia campus said that contradicts a letter he signed supporting reduced greenhouse gas emissions as part of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Tuesday that the former Sprint Nextel CEO has financial interests in companies that oppose climate change legislation. He also has ties to businesses that could benefit from the proposed caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

System spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead saidForsee's letter to federal lawmakers "represents his position solely as president of the University of Missouri System" and is not inconsistent with his earlier support for the broader campus effort to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050.

In his letter to lawmakers, Forsee estimated that the four-campus university system would have to spend between $5 million and $8 million to comply with tougher standards if cap-and-trade passes.

"While he continues to support green and conservation initiatives that are in everyone's best interest, he remains concerned as outlined in the letter that the University of Missouri will be subject to the financial ramifications of the legislation should it become law," Hollingshead said.

Forsee is a board member of Great Plains Energy, the holding company for Kansas City Power & Light, which opposes the federal proposal. But he also is on the board of Ingersoll Rand, a commercial products manufacturer that, according to its Web site, supports cap-and-trade legislation.

Forsee's brother, David, is the founder of Brookside Capital, a consulting company that invests in renewable and other advanced energy technologies. Gary Forsee has no investment in that company, which David Forsee said would likely stand to benefit if a cap-and-trade bill were approved.

Hollingshead said Gary Forsee's corporate roles do not pose a conflict of interest because board members don't lobby.

Gary Forsee's investment portfolio includes more than $10,000 worth of General Electric stock and another $10,000 in GE bonds, according to a personal financial disclosure statement required for high-ranking university officials.

GE has lobbied for the bill and stands to financially benefit if cap-and-trade were to pass. Forsee also owns more than $10,000 worth of stock in Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil, Ford and some 40 other companies.

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Brian Jarvis December 2, 2009 | 10:04 p.m.

If Forsee is so concerned about financial ramifications, how about capping the football coach's salary? With Forsee sporting so many diversified financial interests of his own, one has to question his ulterior motives. Was there no effort to contact Forsee himself for this story?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 3, 2009 | 6:51 a.m.

When someone assumes the position of president of a major public university it is not the equivalent of taking monastic vows of poverty and chastity. However, it's both correct and logical to question whether the person has conflicts of interest.

Some of us continue to hope that now that Forsee has had time to study this university's complex workings that he and the Curators will mandate that steps be taken to reorganize it, with far more emphasis on teaching and research and a reduction in its bloated hierarchy.

As for NCAA Division I athletics, University of Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology don't participate but seem to be doing fairly well with their teaching and research. Most folks wouldn't mind having a diploma from either of those great institutions hanging on their office wall.

(Report Comment)

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