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*** UPDATED x1 - Mayor claims no communication with Institute *** The most overlooked story of the week

Friday, Dec 6, 2013

* The Guardian got its hands on an internal document from the State Policy Network that includes grant proposals from several conservative state-level “think tanks.” The proposals represent, according to the Guardian, “a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services.”

According to the Guardian, the State Policy Network “has an annual warchest of $83m drawn from major donors like David Koch and food giant Kraft.” Local background here.

* Now, on to the Guardian’s story

The proposal from the Illinois Policy Institute for a campaign to deal with Chicago’s government worker pensions crisis by switching to 401(k)-style retirement plans similarly focuses on a politician – in this case Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The proposal says that “Mayor Emanuel has privately expressed the need for 401(k)-style changes to truly achieve reform.”

The institute plans to “leverage the leadership potential of Mayor Emanuel … as the spark for wider pension changes in Illinois.” It adds that “friendly legislators would be welcome to draft legislation modelled on our policy work and work in tandem with Mayor Emanuel to move it forward in the legislative process.”

John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, told the Guardian that Emanuel had been “an outspoken proponent of pension reform that includes moving to a 401(k)-style, defined contribution system.” He saw no problem with the lobbying that the think tank undertakes.

“We are not allowed to do any campaigning or electioneering, and we don’t. We are allowed to spend a significant percentage of our expenditures on lobbying and we are very proactive in lobbying for liberty-based policy, including the urgently needed pension reform. We report our activities accordingly.”

* A summary of the Illinois Policy Institute’s grant proposal

* And here’s an excerpt of the full grant proposal posted by the Guardian

* So far, Mayor Emanuel has not yet given the General Assembly a draft of his proposals. If he does, indeed, “privately” support replacing current pensions with 401(K) plans, he hasn’t yet put those ideas on paper.

Whatever the case, the Illinois Policy Institute obviously has no plans to drop its constant demands for a defined contribution “pension” system to replace defined benefits. The state lobbying was just the beginning.

*** UPDATE *** From a Mayor Emanuel spokesperson…

The administration has not been in touch with the Policy Institute on this issue. We support choice and optional defined contribution plan for new employees just like the state law signed by the governor.

So, somebody’s lying. And since the mayor’s office is pretty specific on both points, I don’t think it’s them.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Demoralized - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    Just more evidence that the IPI should be banned from calling itself a non-partisan think tank.

  2. - Anonymous - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    Oh the horror! Conservative groups seek funding from conservative foundations to undertake conservative policy work! Alert the NSA!

    Anyone digging up the left wing’s grant applications to George Soros’ funding entities?

    Come on. This is how think tanks are funded…by like-minded philanthropic organizaitons. Rich, you do a great job of holding media’s feet to the fire for sloppy work. Here’s a perfect chance.

  3. - Ghost - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:53 am:

    and how many people who have control or influence over the illinois policy institute are invovled in manageing investments or could make money from a pension system that does a 401(k) style?

    Side note, a 401k system is not cheaper. It costs the same as a defined benefit plan but tends to have worse performance.

    If the City and employee have a combine 15% contribtuion to a defined benefit plan it would have plenty of money. They just need to commit to putting in the 15%, in whatever combination of employee and employer they want to go with.

  4. - 47th Ward - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    ===liberty-based policy===

    What Tillman and his ilk mean when they say this is that as long as anyone has to pay taxes, they will never be free. Liberty, to them, means freedom from taxes, freedom from any collective responsibility for shared government, community, etc. It is a warped and perverted ideology and is anathema to the values on which this country was founded.

    Thanks for highlighting the Guardian’s story Rich. Maybe people will wake up now and treat IPI like the special interest shills they are.

  5. - Are Ya Kiddin Me? - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 11:56 am:

    A FYI:
    A similar Commentary by Dana Milbank appeared in the SJR & Wash. Post today about the Koch Bothers and ALEC. He quotes the Guardian.

    ALEC stands its ground:By Dana Milbank,

  6. - Jimbo - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:04 pm:

    I said yesterday, God help us all if Rauner and Rahm are running the show. It will be the largest redistribution of wealth to corporations and the 1% you could ever imagine.

  7. - Cassandra - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:04 pm:

    If the pension law stands, and a chunk of future pension value is removed with the help of the ISC, would younger employees feel less confident about their own pensions. That wouldn’t be unreasonable given that most of their private sector friends undoubtedly have defined contribution. And if the state gets into financial trouble again, employees could reasonably wonder if there would be another run on the pensions–after all, we’re talking, in many cases, about 50 or 60 more years of work plus retirement. Without the protections of the pension clause. Would defined
    contribution start looking better.

    Let’s just hope the unions have good lawyers. Really good lawyers.

  8. - ChefKief - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    Rahm mentioned the 401k plan when he came to Springfield that one time.

  9. - equivocator - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Cassandra, you raise an interesting point. However, my hunch based on much anecdotal news reporting, is that for most persons nearing retirement that they have not accumulated enough wealth in their 401s to effectively finance their retirement. Many only have about 100 K saved at 60. For many, this means they will live off their SS or go back to work at low paying jobs. Here is my point, we may find out that without defined benefits, more and more people will need to be bailed out by government, and that the 401 experiment has failed miserably. This would be my prediction.

  10. - qcexaminer - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    God forbid that Illinois should be launched into the 21st Century. If the current system was good enough in the 1950s, by golly it’s good enough NOW!

  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:25 pm:

    Quite a crew of friends Emanuel has there.

    Wasn’t IPI peddling some line a few weeks ago that they aren’t lobbyists?

  12. - RNUG - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:31 pm:

    There is no doubt there has been a concerted (and mostly successful) attack on defined benefit pensions in the private sector, starting almost 30 years ago. It’s only been in the last 10 - 15 years or so that the attack has turned to the government sector. Some of the specialty publications (both legal and governmental) have been on top of this story for years. Illinois is actually towards the tail end of it.

    A lot of what I’ve been opining the last year or so is just taking what has happened elsewhere and restructuring it to fit the Illinois political climate. More reasoned analysis than crystal ball prognostication.

    Illinois is really a key state in this struggle. Along with NY, IL has one of the strongest pension protection clauses. Break Illinois and the remaining ones should fall like dominoes. Lose in Illinois and you can still keep attacking the weaker (in terms of pension protection) states.

    The Chicago fight will just be an extension of the “kill defined benefits” campaign …

  13. - countyline - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    Ghost - 401k’s may or may not be cheaper, but what they are is predictable - an organization always knows how much money they have to put into the system. With a classic defined benefit plan (pension), the payout to the retiree is never really known due to increases in salary, and if the stock market has a bad year or you make bad investments…well, too bad, you still have to pay up. 401k’s place the risk and responsibility for saving for retirement on the employee - and we can argue all day about whether that’s ethical or not…

  14. - Raymond - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    It’s curious that we haven’t yet seen any concerted effort on the part of the left - unions, liberal north shore legislators, whomever - to aggressively discredit and rebrand the IPI.

    The fact is that IPI has exploded onto the scene in the last few years and is arguably shaping public policy and public perception. It has a considerably large staff (the lobbyists dressed as “researchers”), its own news service, it’s own in-house legal “center,” its own goofball “journalist in residence,” and, evidently, a very large pile of cash behind it.

    By and large, the media has treated IPI as credible - a “think” tank, whatever that is.

    Where is the counter-campaign to put IPI back into the hole from which it sprung? Have I missed that?

  15. - Obama's Puppy - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    No shocker here, they have to raise money in order to survive, why not advocate for policies that just happen to make their faundraisers rich off of taxpayers and to the detriment of ohh icky union members.

  16. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 1:45 pm:

    Thanks Rich for sharing, I hope more of the mainstream media will inform the public

  17. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 1:48 pm:

    “Tillman and his ilk”

    They are trying to stop unions from doing the very things they do to advance their own economic interests. They lobby, they have publicized opinions, or anything to get the politicians to enact laws that favor them, and to get the public to support them. When unions do this, well, it’s the end of the world and should be stopped. I don’t recall that the IPI or Kochs ever agreed to a tax increase on the wealthy for the public good. Why should they expect that from anyone else? They play hardball, why shouldn’t anyone else?

  18. - walkinfool - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 2:51 pm:


    Does that mean Rahm chatting with Bruce at a cocktail party at Griffin’s house?

  19. - Steve - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 3:05 pm:

    Just because “the administration” hasn’t been in touch with IPI doesn’t mean people close to Rahm haven’t. There’s enough wiggle room here for all sorts of denial. After all, Rahm is an expert at illusion. Look how he got ObamaCare through Congress. How many low information voters knew that ObamaCare would change their insurance???

  20. - JI - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 3:06 pm:

    For what it’s worth, Rahm has publicly proposed increasing retirement age to 67, freezing COLAs for at least 10 years, increasing employee contributions and offering all new employees 401(k) options.

  21. - Joan P. - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 3:39 pm:

    “The administration has not been in touch with the Policy Institute on this issue” does not contradict “Mayor Emanuel has privately expressed the need for 401(k)-style changes to truly achieve reform”, since the latter doesn’t say to whom he made that statement.

  22. - Kwark - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 4:53 pm:

    Walkinfool, Steve, and Joan P are on it. “The administration has not been in touch with the Policy Institute on this issue” is actually a non-denial. Emanuel is not going to be hanging with some drone at IPI. He’ll be hanging with IPI’s funders and “speaking privately.”

  23. - Conservative Republican - Friday, Dec 6, 13 @ 5:02 pm:

    ==Oh the horror! Conservative groups seek funding from conservative foundations to undertake conservative policy work! Alert the NSA!

    Anyone digging up the left wing’s grant applications to George Soros’ funding entities?

    Come on. This is how think tanks are funded…by like-minded philanthropic organizaitons. Rich, you do a great job of holding media’s feet to the fire for sloppy work. Here’s a perfect chance.==

    Well said, Anon. IMO, the amount of interconnected funding between left-wing foundations, donors, etc and left of center think tanks, 501cs, etc., which then is parlayed into direct lobbying and political action dwarfs this puny IPI initiative.

    And the media pays little heed to it. Two examples of the kind of ruthless muscle the left-oriented aligned groups use are the recent incidents wherein the Cardinal had the Catholic charitable campaign withhold funds to the immigration coalition which had signed on to the gay marriage coalition and where the Susan G Komen Foundation attempted to stop funding Planned Parenthood programs as insufficiently cancer-fighting related. In the former case, leftist groups, with ample help from the media and this blog, banded together to demonize the Cardinal for defunding the immigration coalition. Little attention was paid to the funding dependency of these groups and the backroom political motivations that went into disparaging the Cardinal for his decision. As to the latter incident, leftist funded women’s groups piled onto the fury against Komen, a nationally publicized incident, but little heed was paid to the funding and political nexi of those group. This IPI matter is small beer compared to the financial power of the leftist non-profits.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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