As state courts across the nation prepare to referee numerous public pension reform disputes, a gaggle of interested parties — from major corporations to the Koch brothers — will next week sponsor an expenses-paid conference on public pension reform for judges who may decide the cases’ fates.Other funders include the Koch brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ford, and General Electric. But since this is a symposium for supposedly impartial and unbiased judges, there won't be any ideological tilt to the conference will there? Just kidding:
Conference funders, which include ExxonMobil, Google and Wal-Mart, could benefit from efforts to slash benefits for public employees. Alternative approaches to shore up state budgets would likely require higher corporate taxes, fewer corporate subsidies and reduced government services, all of which would be bad for business.
The three-day gathering in a Charleston, S.C., hotel is hosted by George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center.
What is clear from the conference’s agenda is that attending judges will spend most of their time inside Charleston, S.C.’s Francis Marion Hotel listening to lectures and panel discussions led mainly by advocates of public pension reform. Bill Lurye, general counsel of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, stands out as one of the only panelists offering a union perspective on the pension debate.Even the name of the conference—"Judicial Symposium on the Economics and Law of Public Pension Reform"—makes assumptions about what needs to happen with public pensions, and the fact that judges should become armchair economists in order to establish legal policy. And that, for the sponsors, is surely the point.