By Mark Wachtler
November 9, 2014. Springfield. (ONN) Governor Quinn and the Illinois legislature supposedly enacted legislation banning legal embezzlement from the state’s various taxpayer-funded government employee pensions. So why is it still happening? More importantly, why doesn’t anyone inside Illinois - media, union members and elected officials included - seem to care? That’s what Forbes Magazine, the Washington Times and the taxpayer watchdog group Open The Books are asking.
Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open The Books. Image courtesy of PolishNews.com.
Progressive politics at work
For decades, union officials and Democratic Party leaders have had a secret and scandalous arrangement. Both routinely hand out government employee pensions to people who aren’t government employees and don’t deserve millions of dollars in taxpayer-paid retirements. Who are these people mysteriously added to the pension rolls over the years?
According to the Illinois watchdog OpenTheBooks.com, they are lobbyists, union officials and Party operatives, seemingly being paid millions in taxpayer dollars for the rest of their lives as a reward for…something, often years of work for the union or the Party, but not the taxpayers. As detailed by Open The Books founder and Executive Director Adam Andrzejewski, the guilty parties don’t even have to hide their actions. The politically-connected beneficiaries are simply added to the government employee rosters for one day. Then, they collect pensions for the rest of their lives.
One day of work, a lifetime of pension payments
In 2011, local Chicago media outlets including the Chicago Tribune and WGN exposed the state’s teachers pension system for perpetrating the above scam. The print and TV news reports announced, “Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.”
Most Popular Illinois Herald Articles
2. Cook County Jail at Crisis Point (3,106)
The Illinois Herald is an independent, grassroots news outlet. Without your support, we couldn't continue publishing. Any donation is appreciated.
Showing how the scam was actually created by Democratic Party elected officials, the Tribune and WGN called the loophole, “a small window opened by lawmakers.” The investigators went on to report that one pension recipient was actually a union lobbyist who earned a lifetime total of $93 for his few hours as a teacher. But he is now collecting a teachers pension for the rest of his life for those few hours of alleged work, all compliments of the Illinois taxpayers.
Union and Party officials fix the loophole, not
Back in 2011 when WGN and the Tribune exposed the teachers pension fund scandal, the union’s President Dan Montgomery told the media that the two examples, “should never be allowed again.” Democratic leaders like Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton passed legislation in 2012 they proudly claimed would stop the practice of giving out taxpayer-funded pensions to people who didn’t qualify.
Adam Andrzejewski and Open The Books were recently featured in a Forbes article revisiting the 2011 controversy. “Even though all Illinois citizens were led to believe that the pension abusers had been stopped, within twenty-four months after the ‘reform’ legislation passed, the union lobbyists retired and received their lifetime Illinois state teacher pensions,” he reports, “Even in Illinois, how could this have happened? The governor and the entire statewide media and political class took credit for stopping these abuses in late 2011 through January 2012.”
Open The Books investigators reached out to the union for answers. The Forbes account quotes Andrzejewski reporting, “In order to understand this massive pension ‘reform misunderstanding’, we questioned the Public Relations Spokesman for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) David Urbanek, who explained: ‘Mr. Preckwinkle and Mr. Piccioli [two of the one-day employees] received a TRS pension following the enactment of House Bill 3813 because House Bill 3813, now Public Act 97-0651, did not stop them from collecting a TRS pension.’” The Open The Books founder’s published response was, “Huh?”
Scam is more widespread than thought
Last month, the Washington Times also looked into Illinois’ government employee pension systems and the $100 billion missing from the funds. Specifically, they asked Open The Books to search the pension rolls for other lifetime recipients who were union employees and lobbyists and not government employees.
The Times reported last month, ‘Collectively, 40 retired union leaders draw $408,136 per month in Illinois teachers’ retirement pension, or $4.9 million per year, according to data generated at the request of The Washington Times by OpenTheBooks.com, an online portal aggregating 1.3 billion lines of federal, state and local spending records.’
The researchers found that many of the 40 union retirees began their careers as actual teachers, but soon quit and went to work full time for various teachers unions. There, they received exponential pay increases and taxpayer-funded pensions to match, which continued to count their years or decades of work for the union as work for the government.
The investigation by the Washington Times found, ‘The union bosses collecting the payouts had jobs at the National Education Association (NEA), the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) after their teaching careers. Most got massive pay raises when they jumped from the classroom to the unions, swelling their pension payouts by large amounts at the expense of taxpayers.’
The Illinois Teachers Retirement System is currently underfunded by $54 billion, or $0.60 on the dollar. With that in mind, Open The Books Executive Director Adam Andrzejewski insists, “Government pensions should go to government workers, period. The pension system for the hard-working teacher and public servant is being drained by union bosses with special pension privileges.” Experts warn that the loophole may never get closed. They remind residents and taxpayers that the practice of seeding taxpayer-funded government employee pension rolls with union bosses and lobbyists has been going on since the 1940’s in Illinois. And the Illinois Legislature made the practice perfectly legal in 1987.
For more information, visit OpenTheBooks.com.
Subscribe to the Illinois Herald. Only 1 weekly email in your inbox. It's FREE and you can unsubscribe at any time. Subscribe now!