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Midterms 2014: Election Puts Extra Pension Funds in Control Of Wall Street Financial Services

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Reprinted from IB Times


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No recount will be needed to declare one unambiguous winner in Tuesday's gubernatorial elections: the financial services industry. From Illinois to Massachusetts, voters effectively placed more than $100 billion worth of public pension investments under the control of executives-turned-politicians whose firms profit by managing state pension money.

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The elections played out as states and cities across the country debate the merits of shifting public pension money -- the retirement savings for police, firefighters, teachers and other public employees -- from plain vanilla investments such as index funds into higher-risk alternatives like hedge funds and private equity funds.

Critics have argued that this course has often failed to boost returns enough to compensate for taxpayer-financed fees paid to the financial services companies that manage the money. Wall Street firms and executives have poured campaign contributions into states that have embraced the strategy, eager for expanded opportunities. Tuesday's results affirmed that this money was well spent: More public pension money will now likely be entrusted to the financial services industry.

In Illinois, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn was defeated by Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who made his fortune as one of the namesakes of Golder, Thoma, Cressey & Rauner (GTCR) -- a financial firm that manages more than $40 million of the state's $50 billion pension system. Rauner -- who retains an ownership stake in at least 15 separate GTCR entities, according to his financial disclosure forms -- will now be fully in charge of the pension system.

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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