Public employee unions have been fighting efforts by Mayors and Governors to reform municipal and state pension systems for years, but now they’re taking the fight one step further, attacking the groups that fund studies suggesting that pensions are in need of reform.Over the past three years the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has spent millions of dollars funding major studies on public pension reform. These attempts to call public attention to fiscally unsustainable pension promises and the harsh realities of arithmetic have upset public employee unions, which have demanded that several prominent think tanks refuse or return money donated by the foundation. The WSJ reports:
Union groups also are calling on the Washington-based Brookings Institution—which has taken more than $500,000 from the Arnold Foundation from 2012 through this year to produce research on pensions—to cut ties. Spokesman David Nassar said the think tank wouldn’t return the grant money and said donors are forbidden from influencing any research.The Pew Charitable Trusts also came under fire for accepting $4.85 million from the foundation for a report on underfunded public pensions. Meredith Williams, executive director of the National Council on Teacher Retirement, an association of teacher pension systems, accused Philadelphia-based Pew of “abandoning its objectivity” by accepting the money, and he called on the group to return it. A Pew spokesman declined to comment, but its website states that it works with the foundation because “we share the goal to help states design and adopt retirement systems that are fair, affordable and fiscally sustainable.”
It’s not likely that the unions’ crusade against pension research will go very far. A few nonprofits, including PBS, have caved to the demands, but most of the targeted groups have declined to return the money. But the offensive shows us just how far public employee unions are willing to go to defend pension promises that just don’t add up.The unions may win a few victories here and there, but in the end math always wins.