MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
During a period of blaring "austerity" when a key goal of those with means is to cut pensions that have been fairly earned by public employees, it is astonishing to read that some lobbyists in 40% of US states get paid pensions from the public trough.
According to an August 25 Associated Press (AP) article:
Hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states ... get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards, an Associated Press review found. Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits....
"It's clear that there's a big problem with hypocrisy when these lobbyists have been pushing austerity and benefit cuts for other government workers while they themselves enjoy solid state pensions," said Michael Kink of the progressive group Strong Economy for All Coalition. "`Do as I say, not as I do' seems to be their approach on retirement cuts."
"Workers who have faced cuts in pay and pensioners have a right to be angry - as do voters," Kink said.
Who knows? Some of these private lobbyists who receive taxpayer funded pensions (and in some case healthcare benefits) may even work to advance legislation sponsored by the infamous ALEC.
The AP story begins with a rather astonishing role model for a wealthy lobbyist who gets a pension courtesy of those whose pensions he may be trying to reduce or eliminate:
As a lobbyist in New York's statehouse, Stephen Acquario is doing pretty well. He pulls down $204,000 a year, more than the governor makes, gets a Ford Explorer as his company car and is afforded another special perk:
Even though he's not a government employee, he is entitled to a full state pension.
Many of these non-governmental employees represent lobbying associations at the forefront of trying to reduce public pensions while ensuring that they keep their own, even though their salaries are not paid by any governmental body.
If all this sounds preposterously hypocritical, it is. It's another scam that is greed wrapped in a lofty excuse:
Acquario, executive director and general counsel of the New York State Association of Counties, argues that his group gives local government a voice in the statehouse, and the perk of a state pension makes it easier to hire people with government expertise.
The revolving door of incestuous government insiders turning around and becoming lobbyists -- in this case working for a guy who makes more than senators and most governors -- just won't supply good enough personnel unless the taxpayers pay for private employee pensions, Acquario argues. Say what?
At least there are some state legislators looking at this egregious pickpocketing of the public purse:
"It's a question of, `Why are we providing government pensions to these private organizations?'" said Illinois Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz.
Thanks for that dose of reality.