Beware the billionaires behind pension reform

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SEIU Local 1021 leader Gabriel Haaland just pointed me to a Chronicle op-ed in which David Crane asks if public employees should have collective bargaining rights:

The Chron describes Crane as a Democrat, who was an adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now lectures on public policy at Stanford University and serves on the UC Board of Regents and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

But Haaland points out that Crane is also the multi-millionaire former investment banker who donated $37, 500 to Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s failed Measure B, last fall.

“And the Capitol Weekly reported that after Schwarzenegger’s 2005 State of the State Address, Crane said he would support any effort by the Governor to eliminate pensions for government workers, which he described as ‘burdensome special privileges,’” Haaland continued in a recent Facebook post.

Actually, Crane went a whole lot further than that, according to a 2006 blog post that describes Crane’s free-market economic philosophy as sounding “distinctly libertarian.”

“He advocates against government intervention in private business and touts his admiration for conservative economist Milton Friedman,” wrote UC Berkeley graduate and former Capitol Weekly reporter Shane Goldmacher on the California Observer blog.

Goldmacher also noted  that Crane called defined benefit pensions  "non-market deals,” saw minimum wage as a "market distorting mechanism,” and endorsed Schwarzenegger’s defined contribution pension proposal in 2005.

"All the governor proposed would be a limitation to some of these special privileges held by government employees, “ Crane reportedly said.

But Crane isn’t the only billionaire behind Measure B’s curtain. As Haaland points out in a recent SEIU flyer that says, “Beware the Billionaires, Stop the Attacks on Public Workers,” one of Prop. B’s biggest donors was Howard Leach, a billionaire financier and investor who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to France.

“”Leach was a Republican ‘pioneer,’ raising more than $100,000 for Bush’s campaign,” the SEIU flyer notes. “He also contributes to the Republican Governors’ Association, whose main objective was the election of the new crop of conservative governors pushing anti-worker measures in Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Wisconsin and other states.”

The SEIU flyer also identifies billionaire venture capitalist, Michael Moritz, as “a major financial backer of Ohio Governor John Kasich and contributed to the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee.”

Now, it should be noted that SEIU and other unions countered these billionaires’ contributions and will doubtless do so again this fall if Adachi goes ahead and puts a modified Measure B on the fall ballot. But SEIU's flyer suggests that folks need to wake to the fact that a bunch of extremely rich people were lurking behind the pension reform curtain, last fall, are likely waiting in the wings to finance another attempt this fall.

And Haaland recommends that folks start tracking what these funders have been doing with their money elsewhere.

“My point is that we need to get beyond asking whether Gavin Newsom was opposing Measure B and onto questions of who Adachi’s financial backers will be for his new pension reform proposition,” Haaland said.