It’s still early in 2017 and state legislative sessions haven’t even begun in every state yet. John Arnold, however, is already on the attack. Arnold, the anti-pension billionaire and former trader at the disgraced Enron, who has spent over $50 million to attack pensions nationwide, is active in Texas, South Carolina, and Nebraska so far. Today, though, let’s focus on Nebraska.
In Nebraska, the anti-pension Retirement Security Initiative, a recipient of millions from John Arnold, is advocating for legislation that would force the cities of Lincoln and Omaha to abandon their defined benefit pensions and move to risky and inadequate cash balance plans.
This battle began last year when the city of Lincoln, NE debated making changes and adjustments to its pension system. The pension review committee heard testimony from a number of people, including Chuck Reed, the leader of the Retirement Security Initiative. Reed suggested several potential changes the city could make, including eliminating cost of living adjustments and moving to a defined contribution 401(k)-style plan for new hires. Ultimately, the Lincoln pension review committee decided to stick with a defined benefit pension plan due to employee recruitment and retention concerns.
John Arnold and Chuck Reed don’t like to lose though. Since the Lincoln pension review committee did not recommend moving away from a defined benefit plan, they are now trying to override the city’s decision via the state legislature. The Retirement Security Initiative hired a $10,000 per month lobbyist to do its bidding at the Capitol. What do local leaders think of this proposed state interference in their governance? The Omaha City Council has already voted to oppose the Arnold-backed legislation.
Arnold is willing to try to buy the outcome he wants when he can’t get it through normal political channels. Arnold doesn’t have the best track record though. In 2014, he spent over $1 million of his own money on an anti-pension ballot measure in Phoenix, AZ that was resoundingly rejected by voters. In 2015, he actively supported a mayoral candidate in Houston that pledged to eliminate pensions; that candidate lost to the current mayor who spent his first year in office working with all parties to reach a compromise deal that will preserve Houston’s public pension plans.
That’s all in addition to the nearly $10 million he has donated to the Pew Research Center to support their anti-pension activity in numerous states. This year Pew has been active in South Carolina, urging legislators to abandon pensions for educators and other state employees.
John Arnold started 2017 on the attack in multiple states. We’ve stopped him before and we can stop him again with your support. Please sign our petition asking John Arnold to stop the attacks on pensions and keep an eye out for him and his associates in your state.