Goldwater Institute declares war on public employees

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Union-fightIsn't it bad enough that we have a "vast rght-wing conspiracy" behind the public employee pension initiative aka the Initiative to Bankrupt the City of Tucson (Prop. 201)? Now the Goldwater Institute "Kochtopus" tentacle wants to extend this fiscally reckless amd irresponsible idea to to state and local governments in Arizona through a statewide initiative. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Initiative would tie government spending to pension funding:

A proposed ballot measure would effectively
bar state and local governments from increasing spending across the
board until its employee pension systems are adequately funded.

[The purposefully deceptively named] Responsible Budgets Act, which was filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Friday, would bar political entities with underfunded pension systems from increasing
spending, except for inflation and population growth
. A provision in the
initiative defines “adequately funded” as 80 percent funded.

[I-02-2014 Responsible Budgets in Support of Proposition __ and Petition Serial # ____, full text of initiative: PDF]

Hold on. This sounds remarkably similar to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) that the Goldwater Institute has been unsuccesful in getting through the legislature. In this new iteration, it sets up public sector employees as the scapegoat for the budget cuts to services under TABOR, to deflect blame from its right-wing authors.

The initiative would also eliminate pensions
for all future elected officials. It would not affect pensions for
elected officials who are already part of the Elected Officials’
Retirement Plan.

Roy Miller, the chairman of the group that
filed the proposed initiative, said the Responsible Budget Act will
force local governments to address problems with underfunded pension
systems.

“The idea is to get governments to own up to
these obligations or reduce them. That’s the purpose of it,” said
Miller, a businessman and co-founder of the conservative Goldwater
Institute.

But Miller acknowledged that it would
effectively make all other areas of government spending subservient to
public pension systems
. If the state wanted to increase funding for K-12
schools or a city wanted to hire more police officers, it would be
unable to do so unless its pension systems were at least 80 percent
funded.

“You either have to fund them by raising taxes or cutting something else, or you have to reduce benefits,” Miller said.

In other words, the Goldwater Institute's plan is to foster anti-public sector employee resentment from private sector employees, who no longer have pensions, and to demonize public sector employees as the reason for budget cuts under TABOR, or raising your taxes. (No doubt to be aided and abetted by its ally The Arizona Republic, which has engaged in demonizing public sector employees for years). It is a divide and conquer the working class strategy, brought to you by the shameless whores for the über-rich elite plutocracy.

Who are public sector employees? The vast majority are police, fire, EMT, and teachers. That's whom the Goldwater Institute wants to foster resentment and anger against, and to demonize and scapegoat. The next time you need to call for medical assistance, or you have a fire at your house, or you need a police officer, you think about that. And haven't teachers already been demonized enough by wingnuts?

Goldwater Institute, of course, will sell this fiscally reckless and irresponsible idea on the provision eliminating pensions for all future elected officials, because everybody hates politicians. But if you support this initiative for this reason, you are only cutting off your nose to spite your face.

BugsThe Goldwater Institute has declared war on public employees. It's time that the working men and women of this state get their backs and declare war on the Goldwater Institute, and all of the many tentacles of the "Kochtopus" and the "vast right-wing conspiracy" operating in this state.

First, a legal challenge to the Goldwater Institute's 501(c)(3) tax status needs to be filed with the IRS. Exemption Requirements – Section 501(c)(3) Organizations:

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e.,
it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of
its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for
or against political candidates
.

* * *

Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities.

The Goldwater Institute plainly has been in violation of its tax status for many years.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen and public watchdog groups recently sued the IRS for its interpretation of of 501(c)(4) social welfare tax-exempt organizations, redefining the statutory "exclusively" as "substantially." Press Release: Groups Sue IRS for Proper Regulation of 501(c)(4):

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), joined by Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit today in federal district court in
Washington, D.C., challenging the IRS regulations that govern
eligibility for tax-exempt status as a section 501(c)(4) “social
welfare” organization.

* * *

The existing IRS regulations were adopted more than a half century ago
in 1959. The lawsuit charges that the regulations are contrary to the
explicit statutory language of the Internal Revenue Code and to court
decisions interpreting the code.

The same holds true for the IRS interpetation of 501(c)(3) organizations. The Goldwater Institute is a political lobbying firm that is actively engaged in direct political advocacy and should be registered as a 527 or Political Action Committee.

Second, Secretary of State Ken Bennett argued that Goldwater Institute employees should be required to register as lobbyists and proposed to introduce legislation back in 2011.  Goldwater Institute ‘lobbies’ against registering more lobbyists - Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required):

In March, Amy Bjelland, elections
director for the Secretary of State’s Office, sent the Goldwater
Institute a letter urging it to register their analysts — who are
testifying in legislative committees and contacting legislators — as
lobbyists.

“The Goldwater Institute made 26 requests
to speak before the 49th Legislature alone,” Bjelland wrote. “The Ninth
Special Session was called at the institute’s urging relating to
putting the issue of the right to a secret ballot before the voters… to
the extent that employees of the principal will be engaging in the
conduct regulated by Arizona law as noted above, each of these people
must be added to the principal’s registration.”

Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he disagreed with the Goldwater
Institute’s interpretation of the exemption from the statute.

“When you start to express positions on whether legislation is good
or bad, that is no longer answering technical questions and that is no
longer technical information,” he said.

Bennett said his office would look into new legislation to clarify
the language before the impasse with the institute could be laid to
rest.

We are still waiting for your legislation, Mr. Bennett. if you are too busy running fo governor, then legislators should introduce a bill strengthening lobbyist regulations in the legislature this session.

Third, Legislators in at least 23 states are trying to do something about dark money, but not our Tea-Publican controlled legislature in Arizona. Last Session, Sen. Michele Reagan would not even allow Sen. Steve Farley's modest bill on dark money organizations to be heard in committee.

The Arizona Republic perpetually whines about the dark money organizations that attack its favorite son, Phoenix councilman Sal DiCiccio, but is strangely silent about the "Kochtopus" dark money organizations operating right under its nose, e.g., the Phoenix based Americans for Responsible Leadership, which the California Fair Political Practices Commission termed the largest case of “campaign money laundering”
in state history.

The Goldwater Institute frequently sues political entities on grounds of transparency and disclosure, yet it is one of the most secretive dark money organizations in Arizona. the Arizona Capitol Times reports:

Miller would not say who is funding the initiative drive. But he said the group has funding commitments, including from some of the same people who are funding the Protect Employee Paychecks from Politics Act. The proposed measure, which is also chaired by Miller, would limit automatic deductions from employee paychecks for political purposes.

"Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants," as Justice Brandeis said. It is time to shine the disinfecting light of sunshine on the Goldwater Institute. Legislators should introduce an aggressive dark money financial disclosure bill in the legislature this session.

The Goldwater Institute has done enough damage to this state siince 1988. As I have said many times, we need to tear up the "Kochtopus" by its roots and salt the ground to make certain that it never grows back again. Maybe then we can have a state of which we can be proud.

One response to “Goldwater Institute declares war on public employees

  1. But doesn’t this “initiative” violate the “one purpose” clause, due to it tying government spending to retirement fund “health” while also eliminating future elected officials from receiving pensions?