Say What? Lobbyists Are Getting Public Pensions in Some States

Seal_of_New_York_svgSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Let me introduce you to Stephen Acquario. He’s a lobbyist who spends much of his time in New York’s State House. He is the executive director and counsel of the New York State Association of Counties. He earns $204,000 a year—more than the governor of New York. He also gets to drive around in a Ford Explorer, his company car. And even though Acquario is NOT a government employee, he IS entitled to a full public pension.

According to a recent review by the Associated Press, Acquario is one of hundreds of lobbyists working in a number of states who qualify for public pensions “because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards.” The Associated Press reported that state legislatures had “granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits.”

Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, wrote a commentary on the subject of lobbyists getting taxpayer funded pensions. In his commentary, Karlin said that during a period of austerity “when a key goal of those with means is to cut pensions that have been fairly earned by public employees, it is astonishing to read that some lobbyists in 40% of US states get paid pensions from the public trough.” He added, “Many of these non-governmental employees represent lobbying associations at the forefront of trying to reduce public pensions while ensuring that they keep their own, even though their salaries are not paid by any governmental body.” He said it was “preposterously hypocritical.” He added that it was “another scam wrapped in a lofty excuse”—pointing out that Acquario claims “that his group gives local government a voice in the statehouse, and the perk of a state pension makes it easier to hire people with government expertise.”

Karlin continued:

The revolving door of incestuous government insiders turning around and becoming lobbyists — in this case working for a guy who makes more than senators and most governors — just won’t supply good enough personnel unless the taxpayers pay for private employee pensions, Acquario argues. Say what?”

Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said, “There is liability for taxpayers. Providing a pension benefit involves some amount of risk for the state and when you provide access to employees of entities that are not in control of the state.” As the AP reported, “Unlike state government, for example, these groups aren’t bound by salary restrictions — significant salary increases would result in increasing pension benefits.”

Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition said, “It’s clear that there’s a big problem with hypocrisy when these lobbyists have been pushing austerity and benefit cuts for other government workers while they themselves enjoy solid state pensions. Do as I say, not as I do’ seems to be their approach on retirement cuts.” Kink added “Workers who have faced cuts in pay and pensioners have a right to be angry — as do voters.”

According to the AP report, these groups that lobby for states and counties take positions “that could conflict with taxpayer interests, such as advocating to weaken caps on property tax increases and boosting state school aid.”


For a large number of state lobbyists, a full state pension is part of the benefits package. Despite being employees of private organizations and drawing private salaries — sometimes in excess of any state employee’s — in at least 20 states, hundreds receive state-paid retirement benefits…

The states that have such provisions include Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Washington State.


Lobbyists can get public pensions in 20 states: Critics question whether system hurts taxpayers (Boston Globe/AP)

Where’s the Outrage? Some Lobbyists Get Taxpayer Funded Pensions in 20 States (Truth-Out)

Why Are Privately Employed Lobbyists Getting State-Funded Pensions? (

Lobbyists getting State pensions (CBS Albany)

State Pensions — A Loophole for Lobbyists (AARP)

N.J. group funded by tax dollars also represents private interests (

Questions over spending by NJ Counties Association (Trentonian/Associated Press)

Lobbyists Collecting New York State Pensions (WGRZ)

Private Lobbyists Earning Taxpayer Funded Pensions And Healthcare (Forbes)


Lobbyist got $99,000 state pension, then filed for unemployment, too (

Top senator: Axe pensions for private lobbyists (Pennsylvania Independent)

How a reporter discovered lobbyists get state pensions (Associated Press)

92 thoughts on “Say What? Lobbyists Are Getting Public Pensions in Some States”

  1. That isn’t a rebuttal nor are the descriptions of your methods mischaracterizations simply because you say they are. That’s in ipse dixit argument; another propaganda tool sometimes used by the simply stupid.

    Let’s review.

    1) Oblique introduction of partisanship by implying the Tea Party of both spontaneous and a good thing.

    Evidenced by the initial post: “And people wonder why the Tea Party came into existence.” A statement which carries the connotation that the Tea Party is both necessary and good.

    2) Feigned outrage when it is pointed out that the Tea Party is anything but a grassroots movement and is indeed a prime example of astroturfing in the political sense, not the stadium sense.

    See your assorted responses to Elaine above.

    3) Protestation that you are non-partisan and yet you weakly endorse the major party from which the Tea Party derives it’s membership.

    “I am also not much of a ‘joiner’ with any political or partisan group. I think both parties are full of idiots, and that the Republicans, by their nature, are just less harmful idiots and less dangerous to civilization, in general.”

    4) Highlight again what you think is good about the Tea Party.

    Your assorted responses to Elaine where you describe government as big or over-powerful over and over; Tea Party doctrinaire dogma and part and parcel of the Koch campaign the privatize government services, etc.”

    I could dive deeper into your methods, but such a poor and superficial deployment doesn’t really merit that much work as my goal – disarming your bullshit by exposing your methods – is done.

    What you think is irrelevant.

    I’m not arguing for you.

    As I said, your admission is not required.

    Can you prove that I’ve mischaracterized your statements? If these observations are mischaracterizations, explain why they are, in detail. You should be easily able to do so if they are indeed mischaracterizations.

    They aren’t so it will be surely funny to watch you try. That is why your position is intractable and you’re left with nothing but “uh-uh” and sticking out your tongue, Girl Simulation. The truth burns and a dedicated propagandist has no greater enemy than the truth in fact or the truth about their methods being exposed.

    But go ahead and dance for us some more.

    I have no issue with using you as an object lesson in the (poor) execution of propaganda techniques.

  2. @geneh:

    Silly person, there’s nothing to rebut except your mis-characterizations. Which, I find more fun to laugh at, than rebut. It is like the scene in Cyranose De Bergerac where he is dying, and he lunges around with his sword and thrusts here and there, and declares victory over jealousy, prejudice, usurious bank fees, screwed up fast food orders, whatever, and then flops over with a plum in his hand. Or something like that. Anyway, that it is you, but with Inspector Clouseau playing the part. Every time he thrusts, his pants fall down around his ankles.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  3. Gene,
    My dyslexia kicked in for a moment when I saw this: “…a grassroots movement..” I read it as a “gaseous movement.” On second thought, that works for me.

  4. Still no substantive rebuttal.

    Also, the tactics of propaganda are not imaginary. They are quantifiable and known. While I didn’t “write the book” on it (yet), I have written extensively about them. Here even.

    That you find yourself in an intractable position is not through trickery.

    It is through your own ineptness in execution of said tactics.

  5. @geneh:

    What, you pulled a page out of Gene’s Big Book of Imaginary Propaganda Tricks, throw ’em up on the screen, and then expect me to jump through some imaginary hoops??? Where, no matter what I say, you will dismiss it as more propaganda and then go back and pull out another page?

    Foolish person! I covered that on page 28 of Squeeky’s Big Book of Silly Twit Tricks.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  6. Paid or true believer, your motive is irrelevant to your methodology and who benefits from both the content and the method.

  7. @geneh;

    Hmmm, well what you are doing does tie in some with something else I was reading about tonight about “kafkatrapping.” I read about it at Legal Insurrection:

    “One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap….”

    Here is the link to the original article:

    Because I am really struggling to make sense out of all your carrying on.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. 1) Oblique introduction of partisanship by implying the Tea Party of both spontaneous and a good thing.

    2) Feigned outrage when it is pointed out that the Tea Party is anything but a grassroots movement and is indeed a prime example of astroturfing in the political sense, not the stadium sense.

    3) Protestation that you are non-partisan and yet you weakly endorse the major party from which the Tea Party derives it’s membership.

    4) Highlight again what you think is good about the Tea Party.

    This is an accurate and fair map of the terrain you covered.

  9. Now it’s drugs. Check that one off your lil’ job aid list.

    You’re adorable when you go ad hominem instead of providing a substantive rebuttal.

  10. Besides, the really important thing here is that Elaine has brought to the front what at best can be described as a huge conflict of interest and at worst a RICO violation.

    Now who would possibly want to distract from that?


  11. @geneh:

    Insane? No, I was thinking more along the lines of you maybe getting into some Rutabaga Pie that had gone bad. Coming down with a case of argot poisoning, where you run around in circles saying silly things. It has happened before.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  12. Either you can substantively refute the dissection of the methodology or you can’t.

    Trying distraction isn’t going to change that.

  13. Ooo. Dismissive as insane. We haven’t seen that propaganda tactic before.

    You’re turning in to a regular propaganda methodology checklist, Sqweaks.

  14. @geneh:

    What in the world are you going on about??? You appear to be having some sort of an imaginary struggle with me. Then, you break into manic laughter. Then you struggle some more, and then priss off into a strut. Are you engaged in some sort of weird mating ritual??? Do I need to call you a therapist or something???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  15. Awwww. Po’ lil’ ol’ you. Is the big bad cynical pro-Constitution anti-fascist anti-propagandist picking on you? Boo hoo.

Comments are closed.