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Lobbyists Sneak Onto Public Pension Rolls


It’s no secret that a number of cities employ lobbyists to assist them with their work in state legislatures. But what is surprising is that many of these municipalities these lobbyists full state pensions—despite the fact that these lobbyists are not employed directly by the state.

ABC News reports that lobbyists in over 20 different states—some of whom are already making six-figure salaries on their own—have managed to work their way onto public pension systems, much to the chagrin of many rank-and-file pensioners:

But several states have started to question whether these organizations should qualify for such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight of their activities, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers. New Jersey and Illinois are among the states considering legislation that would end their inclusion. […]

“There is liability for taxpayers,” said Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. “Providing a pension benefit involves some amount of risk for the state and when you provide access to employees of entities that are not in control of the state.”

And unlike regular state employees, there are no salary guidelines for private employees, so the means for circumventing one of the regular measures cities use to keep pension liabilities in check are within reach for the more unscrupulous.

In regular times, this may very well be business as usual. But given the sorry state of pension funds around the country, the optics for these kinds of arrangements are unfortunate, to say the very least.

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  • Thirdsyphon

    This is depressing news, but in hindsight I suppose it’s not all that surprising. They’re lobbyists, after all, so in a sense their ability to secure completely unjustifiable benefits that run counter to the public interest is just proof of their skill.

    It’s also proof of the crying need for much tighter regulations on lobbyists, campaign financing, or both.

  • Alexander Scipio

    Dr Mead: I have no idea what this clause means: “But what is surprising is that many of these municipalities these
    lobbyists full state pensions…” I can certainly extrapolate meaning, but … why bother? If this is what the blog has come down to, if this is the standard for a blog that often has academics and education as its focus, well.. what’s the point? I have had my son’s English teacher tell me spelling no longer matters because of spell checker technology. I have listened to teacher spread all kinds of EdSchool claptrap in Back-to-School sessions. Those are mandatory. This blog is not. If you care at all about your readers, if you recognizes that most of us are not high school dropouts, if you acknowledge that we expect better of you – and you should expect better of yourself, fine. But if this crap continues – surely to be blamed on “interns” though your name is at the mast – I see no point in reading it.

    • Philopoemen

      Why do you object to these lobbyists full state pensions? Does it stem from in many of these municipalities these lobbyists?

    • Jim__L

      Pssst … “if you recognizes” … you might want to fix that.

      The point is well made, though. Hopefully the VM crew puts a little more attention into editing, even with WRM in India.

  • Anthony

    For timely and related material see “States and localities owe far, far more than their citizens know: The indebted states of America.” (Steven Malanga, City Journal – article is long read)

  • Mahon1

    This is simply preposterous. How can someone who is not a public employee have a public employee pension? It is an open invitation to cronyism and corruption, and a great example of the contempt that the entrenched governing class has for citizens, taxpayers and (real) public employees. Let the lobbying firms set up their own pension plans.

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