Much has been written in recent years about the influence of so-called “dark money” in American politics. Whether it is the Koch Brothers and their extensive network or mysterious Super-PACs that seem to pop up each election cycle, the influence of dark money is widespread. One dark money influencer with less national prominence is John Arnold. Supporters of public pensions will know him as the primary funder of anti-pension activity nationwide. Let’s take a look at just how Arnold uses his wealth to influence decisions regarding public pensions.
Back in December, The Denver Post ran an article about a fundraiser scheduled for today in support of a Colorado gubernatorial candidate. What makes this particular fundraising event noteworthy? It is being hosted by John Arnold at his home in Telluride, CO. The candidate Arnold is supporting, Mike Johnston, is a former Democratic state senator and education reform supporter. In addition to funding anti-pension activities, Arnold is a prominent education reform advocate.
While Johnston has been supportive of public pensions in the past, his association with Arnold raises serious questions about his commitment to protecting pensions for working families. When asked about the fundraiser, Lynea Hansen, executive director of Secure PERA, stated: “…we would expect he [Johnston] would make some sort of statement to reaffirm his support of pensions.”
Donating to political candidates is only one way Arnold exerts his influence. He primarily uses his wealth to fund the activities of anti-pension organizations such as the Retirement Security Initiative, the Reason Foundation, and the Pew Research Center. Each of these organizations were active in 2017 in states across the nation. From hiring pricey lobbyists to testifying before legislative committees to providing “free” analyses of public pension systems, these groups promote John Arnold’s anti-pension messaging while receiving millions of dollars from him.
The 2018 legislative session began this week in Kentucky, a state where both Pew and Reason have been active. Next week, the legislative session begins in Iowa, another state where Reason has been involved. As more legislative sessions begin in the weeks ahead, you can be sure that all of these Arnold-funded groups will be sending their representatives to lobby state legislators and advocate for the elimination of traditional public pensions.
Will you join us to fight back against the false and misleading claims of these organizations? Click here to join our Rapid Response Team in your state and be on the front lines as we defend retirement security for working families.