Pew Charitable Trusts is a respected institution studying many different aspects of American life. Legislators, civic leaders, and everyday Americans rely on Pew for objective, high-quality data and analysis on various issues. So why is one small division of Pew actively campaigning to eliminate defined benefit pensions for public employees? Because they have received millions of dollars in funding from anti-pension billionaire John Arnold.
Over the course of seven years, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has given almost $10 million to Pew’s Public Sector Retirement Systems project. This project doesn’t just produce questionable studies using flawed data. The leaders of this project are actively engaged in efforts across the country to get rid of defined benefit pensions for public employees and retirees.
The state where Pew has arguably had the biggest impact is Kentucky. Back in 2013, Pew staff and lobbyists made a concerted effort to push Kentucky legislators to adopt a cash balance plan for new public employees. This wasn’t just a one-time thing, either. Pew had had lobbyists in the state for years pushing for a cash balance plan. Kentucky did switch to a cash balance plan for certain new public employees in 2013, after hearing promises from Pew that such a plan would reduce unfunded liabilities for the state. Not only did the new cash balance plan fail to reduce the unfunded liabilities, but it gutted retirement security for public employees. It also laid the groundwork for SB 151, the stinking pension-gutting bill passed this year that will force new teachers into a cash balance plan as well. Following passage of the cash balance plan legislation in 2013, a group of Kentucky legislators wrote an open letter warning other state legislators not to trust Pew.
Kentucky is not the only state where Pew has been involved. From Alabama to Connecticut, Kansas to Pennsylvania, South Carolina to Virginia, Pew has been relentless in their work to end defined benefit pensions.
It’s time for Pew to end their involvement with John Arnold. Pew should reject John Arnold’s money and focus on offering solutions, not propaganda. The American public should be able to rely on Pew as an unbiased source of objective information, not as the mouthpiece for a billionaire’s anti-pension rhetoric. Sign our petition now and tell Pew to reject Arnold’s money!