As we have seen, Josh McGee of the Texas-based John Arnold Foundation recently brought the Arnold Foundation’s pension reform agenda to Colorado (at a luncheon sponsored by Denver’s Donnell-Kay Foundation):
The Arnold Foundation has supported pension reform efforts in San Jose, CA and in Rhode Island that included statutory provisions taking contracted public pension COLA benefits. These takings are now being challenged in court.
According to Texas AFT, the Arnold Foundation is funding “attacks” on public pensions across the United States:
” . . .the big-money man behind the attack on state and local pension funds, from California to Texas and beyond, is one John Arnold, a billionaire Houston hedge-fund operator who walked away from his role as an Enron trader with millions of dollars in bonuses before that notorious company went bankrupt.”
“John Arnold once was renowned for his lucrative natural gas trading at Enron. He never was implicated in wrongdoing at the now-infamous company, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California once criticized him for allegedly refusing to answer, during a deposition, whether he had manipulated West Coast energy markets. A committee representing former Enron employees sued Arnold and other top traders for receiving huge bonuses, including $8 million for Arnold, right before Enron collapsed. Arnold and the committee settled on confidential terms, according to court records.”
Hank Kim of the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems recently had this to say about the Arnold Foundation and the Pew Center on the States agenda:
“They are partnering with the Arnold Foundation, which is a foundation out of Houston, Texas to really attack public sector plans at the state level.” “They have been pitching themselves as honest brokers.” “Their methodologies are quite flawed.” “It seems as if they do have an agenda.” “We have good documentation from reputable actuaries who find great flaws in the way Pew and the Arnold Foundation calculate the funding status and their criticisms of public sector pension plans.” “If the state legislature . . . has invited Pew to be an honest broker, let us know.”)
Court briefs in the Colorado public pension lawsuit Justus v. State have relied on Pew research:
From the Colorado PERA Motion to Dismiss of May 10, 2010: “See Ex. A at 27 (Pew Center on the States, Pew Charitable Trusts, The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Roads to Reform (2010) (“Pew Report”)
Yesterday, Kentucky’s Courier Journal reported on the National Public Pension Coalition’s (NPPC) criticism of the public pension reform agenda of the Pew Center on the States and the Arnold Foundation.
“A recent story in the Wall Street Journal reported on the Arnold Foundation’s involvement in pension reforms in various states.”
The Courier-Journal article notes that the NPPC and the KPPC have distributed a memorandum to Kentucky legislators addressing these concerns.
According to the NPPC, Pew hired an actuary consulting firm in Kentucky that sells cash balance pension plans for profit.
More from the NPPC/KPPC memorandum:
“Another serious point of concern is that Pew’s work is being funded in part by the Arnold Foundation, an organization with its own ideological goals and a predetermined antipathy to traditional defined benefit pension plans.”
“Though the Legislative Task Force on pensions had the admirable goal of finding an effective way to address the pension funding challenges created by years of chronic underfunding, the Arnold Foundation’s bias interferes with achievement of that goal.”
(My comment: Like Colorado, a number of states have irresponsibly underfunded their contractual public pension obligations, ignoring contractual obligations in favor of discretionary spending. Kentucky is one of these states.)