Minnesota Report

In politics, the old adage is “Follow the Money.” If you are concerned about the effects of the Citizen’s United decision and the Koch Brothers influences on politics, then this story merits attention.  Originally, we thought the John and Laura Arnold Foundation was only active in other state’s pension issues, but we have now learned, they are active here in Minnesota. If you want to see an interesting tie between pensions and FairVoteMN and the foundational argument for Ranked Choice Voting then read on.

The pending debate over state employee public pensions looms once legislators return to St Paul next week. Surprisingly, the state employee contracts passed quite easily, but the true battle will be over public pensions. As we have been investigating the issues around pensions we learned about Kurt Winkelmann, a Senior Fellow at the U of MN’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute, along with Ellen McGrattan are leading a nationwide study on a comprehensive research-based approach to public pension policy design. https://cla.umn.edu/heller-hurwicz/pensions-initiative  

Principally, the funding stems from the Pew Charitable Trusts http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/public-sectorretirement-systems, which coincidentally is funded in part by the Arnold Foundation, which is a primary funder of FairVote. This sounds like an opportunity to support privatization. The Arnold Foundation gave Pew $9,700,000 for its study from 2012-2019: To support the Public Sector Retirement Systems project. They also gave $4,236,553 to FairVote nationally, which funds specific efforts in state’s and directly to the FairVoteMN Foundation $137,180.

The means the largest financier of changes in electoral processes is also a major financier of changing public pension programs. We highlighted this issue last March in Duluth Referendum Provides Smoking Gun to FairVoteMN Finances. If you call Koch Brothers support Dark Money, what is support from the Arnold Foundation?

This issue expands the question, why does John Arnold a billionaire and former Enron Executive care about municipal elections and public pensions? If you read Governing magazine’s 2017 article John Arnold: The Most Hated Man in Pensionland you may begin to understand. Once you read that piece you also should read The Wolf of Sesame Street responds to Pando – much bark, no bite, still stonewalling, http://www.truthaboutjohnarnold.com/, Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association and again CaliforniaWatch, Rolling Stone, and Salon.

DFL elected officials need to clearly understand the undermining of local election does have a coloration to an undermining of the DFL Party endorsement and an interjection of a more chaotic electoral system creates an opportunity for an erosion of governmental systems like public pensions.

John & Laura Arnold Foundation

2013 – 2014 Urban Institute To expand access to information about public sector retirement systems.


2012 – 2014 Pew Charitable Trusts                           $4,850,000

To support the Public Sector Retirement Systems project.

2013 – 2016 Pew Charitable Trusts                           $2,215,000

To support the development of common standards for gathering and reporting data on tax incentives for economic development.

2015 – 2019 Pew Charitable Trusts                           $4,850,000

To support the Public Sector Retirement Systems project.

2016 – 2019 Pew Charitable Trusts                           $2,835,000

To support efforts to improve state economic development programs by conducting research and providing technical assistance.

Total support for FairVote 2015-2019  $4,236,553

2015 FairVote                    $92,500

To create a 50-state assessment of structural democracy reforms and obstacles associated with ranked choice voting.

2015 – 2016 FairVote                     $200,000

To provide general operating support.

2016 – 2017 FairVote                     $1,806,873

To conduct research and educate the public about ranked choice voting.

2017 – 2019 FairVote                     $2,000,000

To support grantee in its efforts to be a nonpartisan educational resource and technical support provider on ranked choice voting.

2015 – 2016 FairVote Minnesota Foundation                      $137,180

To educate residents of the state of Maine about ranked choice voting.

2014 – 2018 Center for Public Integrity                  $2,887,644

To support grantee’s reporting on the flow of money and influence in state-level politics.

Other FairVoteMN Foundation funders

Minnesota Community Foundation

FairVote Minnesota Foundation 2017 $15,000

The Minneapolis Foundation

FairVote Minnesota Foundation 2017 $30,250

The Saint Paul Foundation

FairVote Minnesota Foundation 2017 $5,000