🎧 MOVIES VS. CAPITALISM: The Succession Finale (w/ David Sirota)

Cracking Down On Pay To Play

May 21, 2023 Matthew Cunningham-Cook
How to stop private equity from using huge campaign contributions to get their way.
Cracking Down On Pay To Play
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler testifies during a House Financial Services Committee on April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

This week, I published a two-month long investigation into how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis oversaw a billion-dollar transfer of state employees’ retirement dollars into high-fee, high-risk private equity firms, as the companies’ executives donated to groups supporting his campaigns.

According to our analysis, DeSantis and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz are the only two governors who have a seat on state boards overseeing how pension investments are made. In all other states, governors simply make appointments to the pension fund board, or, in the case of New York and North Carolina, have no influence over pension investments at all.

Arrangements like DeSantis’ pension-board authority present a unique set of problems: To win elections in the United States these days, you have to raise enormous sums of money — and particularly if you have your eye on the presidency, as DeSantis does. And if you’re a politician with a loathsome personality like Ron DeSantis, the most effective way to raise $200 million is to get donations from people who have policy interests before your office.

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