I just happened to scoop up a copy of today’s USA Today Money section, and hey, there’s Gov. Ed Rendell at the top of the page, next to the headline, Do political donations win pension fund deals?
This being USA Today, he was surrounded by a giant green circle illustrating the $129 million that Blackstone (a private equity group) has earned in management fees from handling PA pensions juxtaposed with a tiny black dot illustrating the $11,000 that its chairman Stephen Shwarzman contributed to Rendell in 2002 and 2006.
The next two graphic illustrations of states and private equity firms (New York / the Carlysle Group and New Mexico / the Quadrangle Group) were significantly smaller and lower down on the page. $38.6 million generated for Carlyle by N.Y., for example.
Although the subheading reads, States, SEC scrutinize investment awards to some firms, the article is larded with such calming statements as:
Even in cases with no charges of illegality, watchdogs argue that the campaign contributions — known as pay-to-play — create conflicts of interest.
“The selection of investment advisers to those plans shouldn’t be based on campaign contributions. They should be based on the merits,” said Mary Schapiro, chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which she said is probing potential pay-to-play cases “in multiple states.” (UST, Kevin McCoy)
The firm (Blackstone) has not been accused in the New York investigation. (ibid)
Just thought it was a strange coincidence, today. If Pittsburgh really is going to politically oppose this pensions takeover, maybe this is a little ammunition — but then again it’s a lot easier to rail against “Harrisburg” and “legislators” than it is to talk smack on “Gov. Rendell“.