Steve Collett on Public Policy

Biography

Stephen Curtiss Collett is a Certified Public Accountant, human rights advocate, and two time Libertarian Candidate for Congress. Collett was a candidate in the 2011 special election to replace Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) who resigned to become the Executive Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Subsequent to redistricting, Steve ran for Congress a second time in 2012 in the newly configured congressional district for the seat held by Rep. Henry Waxman (CA-33).

The focus of both Collett for Congress campaigns included strategies for economic growth, support for drug and prison policy reform, opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for reasonable paths to citizenship for immigrants, marriage equality and protection of civil liberties. Steve was also treasurer of California’s 2012 Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative.

Steve Collett has been a Certified Public Accountant for over 35 years and is president of Collett & Company, Inc., CPA’s located on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, California. He has a daughter (Jillian) and resides in Hermosa Beach, California. Collett is also an animal rights advocate and likes to spend time with his Great Pyrenees dogs.

Early Life

Steve Collett was born in Evanston, Illinois on June 17, 1954, the son of James Barrie Collett and Dorothy Anne Curtiss. He has a twin brother (James) and two sisters (Jennifer and Martha). Steve spent his childhood in Winnetka, Illinois. Steve’s first political memories include time spent with his father watching President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address warning against the military industrial complex in January 1961.  He attended a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech in Winnetka on July 25, 1965 and became an Eagle Scout in 1967 at the age of 13. In 1968 his family moved to Arcadia, California.

Education

Collett graduated from Arcadia High School in 1972. He attended Colorado College where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A in Business Administration in 1976. He was the recipient of the Outstanding Student in Business Administration Award for the Class of 1976.

Collett has a Master in Business Taxation (MBT) from the University of Southern California (1981) and Master in Public Policy from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs (2013). Collett’s second run for Congress in 2012 occurred while while he was enrolled in the Public Policy program at UCLA.

At UCLA Collett focused on drug and prison policy, immigration, policies pertaining to the elderly, Medicare reform and tax policy. Collett authored “The Impact of Immigration Policy on the Elderly” in connection with Migration Policy and Analysis work for UCLA Professor Randall K. Q. Akee (Ph.D. Harvard University). In the report Collett summarizes the economic benefits of migration and the role that immigrants offer in improving the ratio of workers to retirees and providing skilled and unskilled hands for elderly health and long term care. The report also analyzed impediments to reform and a political strategy for policy change.

Collett authored “The impact of Taxes on Economic Prosperity” in a report for UCLA Professor Michael M. Darby, a former senior official in the Reagan and Bush administrations. The report examined research with respect to the impact of alternative tax policies internationally and among the various U.S. states over different time periods to evaluate the impact on economic growth. Darby is a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.

Collett’s UCLA work included a proposal to California’s Department of Health and Human Services under the guidance of former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic Party Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. The project included a recommendation to emphasize harm reduction rather than incarceration for drug crimes as a strategy to bring relief to California’s budget crisis, reduce the prison population, comply with federal realignment mandates and find a more humane and effective treatment for drug use and abuse. As part of the study Collett interviewed four presidential candidates, three former governors, five congresspersons, three state legislators, a former Superior Court Judge, a former prosecutor, a former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police, numerous other law enforcement officials, public health officials, health professionals, clergy, drug reform advocates and drug reform opponents.

Collett authored “Thirteen Ways Drug Prohibition Hurts Real Estate Values” as a project for the UCLA libertarian environmentalist professor Matthew E. Kahn. Kahn is author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment and of Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future. Collett also focused on Transportation and the Environment under UCLA Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs.

Under the guidance of Collett’s faculty advisor, UCLA professor of Public Policy and internationally recognized drug and crime expert Mark A. R. Kleiman, Collett authored “The Gateway Theory”, a report challenging the use of a theory that  the introduction of  certain drugs is a cause of subsequent use of stronger drugs. Collett also co-authored with Tom Gariffo (UCLA MPP 2013) and Marisa Hernandez-Morgan (UCLA MD/MPP 2013) the UCLA Applied Policy Project award-winning “Evaluation of the Medical Marijuana Program in Washington, D.C.” for Washington, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan.

Collett authored “Mass Incarceration in California,” a report which traced the quintupling growth in California’s prison population, related impact on recidivism rates, economic costs and suggested strategies to reduce mass incarceration, for Professor Emeritus Daniel J.B. Mitchell at UCLA Anderson School of Management and School of Public Affairs.

Collett studied Medicare Reform under Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Law Mark A. Peterson. Peterson is a specialist in policy relationships among the Presidency, Congress, and interest groups, with particular attention to national health care policy and Medicare reform. Collett’s work included preparing and delivering written and oral testimony of a Collett developed proposal to improve Medicare.

Collett authored “The Impact of Parallel Failures of Drug and Immigration Policy on the Elderly” and “How To Convince AARP to Support Immigration Reform” for UCLA Professor Fernando Torres-Gil. Torres-Gil was the first Assistant Secretary for Aging under the Clinton administration and currently sits on the National Council on Disability as appointed by President Obama. He is also Director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging and a member of the AARP Board of Directors.

At UCLA, Collett also participated in the mentorship program with California’s 2002 Republican Gubernatorial nominee Bill E. Simon and is currently pursuing post-graduate research focused on taxes, incentives, equality and prosperity.

Career

Steve Collett began his career for Ernst & Ernst (now Ernst & Young), Certified Public Accountants where he was employed from 1976 to 1983. Collett’s early experience at Ernst included auditing defense contractors, an educational university and a multinational publishing company. Collett’s later experience at Ernst included specialization in taxation and completion of his Master in Business Taxation at USC. In 1983 Collett resigned from his position as Tax Manager at Ernst to establish Collett & Levy, Certified Public Accountants. At Collett & Levy, he was Managing Partner and focused on taxation of high net worth individuals, closely held businesses, and clients in the medical, entertainment, architecture and real estate industries.

Collett is currently president of Collett & Company, Inc. which he founded in 1999. The firm specializes in taxation of professionals, high net worth individuals, closely held businesses and real estate transactions. Collett & Company is located on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, CA.

Politics

Collett identifies his political inspiration as coming from Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. He cites Milton Friedman, Judge James P. Gray and Michelle Alexander as having heavily influenced his views on drug policy reform.

In 2010 Collett’s concern with violence and his perceived counterproductive spending on the War on Drugs, War in Iraq and War in Afghanistan resulted in Collett’s determination to change failed policy.

In late 2010 Collett joined the effort to end marijuana prohibition for adults in California and became the Los Angeles Westside Director on Proposition 19, to tax and control cannabis in California, using his CPA firm as westside headquarters.

When Attorney General Eric Holder announced shortly before election day that the federal government would enforce prohibition in California regardless of the outcome, Collett concluded that policy needed change at the federal level.

After Collett’s Congresswoman, Jane Harman, resigned on February 28, 2011, Collett announced his intention to run in the special election to fill the seat. Collett also submitted his application to enroll in the Master of Public Policy program at UCLA.

Sixteen candidates qualified for the May 17, 2011 special election primary to replace Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA36). Among the candidates were Los Angeles City councilwoman Janice Hahn, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, antiwar activist Marcy Winograd (who received 42% of the Democratic vote in the 2010 primary), and Republican marketing executive Craig Huey. Collett announced his candidacy at Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, the location of discrimination against African Americans in the 1920’s. Collett’s campaign included a series of signs to Stop The War on Drugs, Stop Immigrant Discrimination, Stop Killings in Mexico and Stop Excessive Taxation. Collett ran as a Libertarian and came in 8th out of the 16 candidates with 1.3% of the vote. Janice Hahn and Craig Huey won the top two positions in the primary and Janice Hahn won in the July 12, 2011 general election.

During 2011, Collett became Treasurer and was the largest financial contributor to California’s Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Initiative, which generated a large following but was unable to generate a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.

Subsequent to redistricting, Collett ran again for Congress in the reconfigured 33rd Congressional district against longtime incumbent Rep. Henry Waxman. Collett was one of eight candidates who ran in the June 2012  primary. Collett’s campaign continued the theme of emphasizing support for job growth, immigrant rights, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, environmental rights, animal rights and the Bill of Rights. Henry Waxman and Manhattan Beach businessman Bill Bloomfield (I) won top two status. Although continuing to run his CPA firm and enrolled as a full time student at UCLA, Collett increased his percentage to 4.3% of the vote and received the second highest third party vote count in the state. Waxman won in the November 2012 general election.

During the 2012 primary and general election campaigns, Collett opened up his CPA firm offices to both the presidential campaigns of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Both Ron Paul and Gary Johnson visited the offices, dubbed L.A. Liberty headquarters and the phone banking calls from L.A. Liberty headquarters went to hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide. During the 2012 presidential campaign Collett interviewed and met multiple times each with Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Peace and Freedom nominee Rocky Anderson.

During summer 2012 Collett joined Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia and members of Caravan for Peace (with Justice and Dignity) as it travelled from San Diego and stopped in 27 U.S. Cities, highlighting atrocities in Mexico resulting from the U.S. War on Drugs. Collett joined in stops in San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., meeting and speaking with drug reform advocates and joined by NAACP leaders. The trip culminated in Washington D.C. where Collett met with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA5), Rep Ron Paul (R-TX22), Janice Hahn (D-CA36), and Henry Waxman (D-CA33), in addition to attending House and Senate staff meetings as part of the Caravan.

During the 2012 campaigns Collett spoke at Hempfest in Seattle on behalf of the ultimately successful marijuana legalization efforts in Washington state and Colorado. Collett is currently an advisory board member for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR) which is planning a 2016 marijuana legalization initiative in California.

Collett is planning another run for Congress in California’s 33rd Congressional District for 2014.

Awards and Affiliations

Collett is a lifetime member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Libertarian Party. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He is a supporter of the League of Women Voters, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Veterans For Peace, The Drug Policy Alliance, Global Exchange, All of Us or None, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Human Solution, The Humane Society, and The Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California.

In addition to academic awards noted above, Collett was the recipient of the The Human Solution 2012 Freedom Fighter Award for Peace and Justice.

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