Pension Intrigue – Reform Advocates Victimized?

The Martyrdom of Steven Greenhut

Over the last few years I have read many writings and studies about public sector pensions and the perceived unfairness and unaffordabilty of them. The frequency and intensity of these pieces has prompted me to try and find out just who the people are that keep flogging this horse. Of course there is Steven Greenhut, whose column appears regularly in the Orange County Register, and John Coupal, of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – also a frequent Register columnist. They are visible and well known for their anti-public pension efforts.

But, who is behind the frequently mentioned organizations – The Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility and Californians for Pension Reform? What I learned as I tried to find out is that the folks that keep whipping this horse tend to be Libertarians and that the same few names tend to pop up as players in several organizations beating the public sector pension drum. A person with Libertarian credentials who shows up on a Reason Foundation video about pensions, who is the editor of a blog named Pension Tsunami, who is or has been on an advisory committee of the Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility (along with Orange Countians John Moorlach and Reed Royalty) and has been active with Californians for Pension Reform is Jack Dean of Fullerton. Dean is also current or past President of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers (Information on this Association’s web site about just who and how many members it has is lacking). In the past Dean has been the CEO of the Reason Foundation (an admitted Libertarian organization) and also Chairman of the California Libertarian Party.

A couple other names associated with several public sector pension reform organizations are Dan Pellissier, once a member of late former Assemblyman Keith Richman’s staff. After serving a stint in the Schwarzenegger administration he is currently the President of California Pension Reform. His former boss, the late Richman, founded the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. A woman named Marcia Fritz is often quoted in the media speaking for that Foundation on public pension issues – and of course her comments toe the party line with regard to the perceived excesses and unaffordability of public sector pay and benefits, including current pensions..

So I have come to the conclusion that it is a relatively small core group of people of the Libertarian bent who are continuously beating the drum about public employees and their pay and benefits, especially their retirement. It should be acknowledged that these drum beaters are often supported by far right leaders of the Republican Party as well.

Besides my suspicion that some of these groups and foundations are pretty much the same core group of people acting under the umbrella of different organizations, we come to a February 19 column in the Orange County Register by Steven Greenhut ( In this column Greenhut reports that the effort by Californians for Pension Reform (Pellisier’s group) to qualify two pension reform initiatives for the November ballot was sabotaged by the ballot description given the proposed initiatives by California Attorney General Kamala Harris. He goes on to describe Harris as Totalitarian, not attuned to fairness and decency, doing the bidding of labor unions and in essence poisoning the well among potential donors for the $ 2 million needed to gather signatures to get the initiative on the ballot (I assume the $2 million was needed to pay for paid petition signature gatherers for this effort rather than rely upon the true grass roots movement concept behind the initiative process).

So, we have an on-going campaign by mostly Libertarian or Libertarian leaning folks supposedly sabotaged by our Democratic Attorney General and organized labor. The perceived sabotage is credited with doing under the initiatives before they left the starting gate. Greenhut, a major promoter of the public sector pension reform movement paints the backers of the proposed initiatives as victims. I don’t buy it. Instead, I wonder how much money is being made by the core group of drum beaters as they seek to whip up support for their cause. My suspicion is that there is money to be followed on both sides of this one.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.