Kentucky Senate Republicans opposed to a controversial public pension overhaul bill are being targeted by a national conservative group that says it is “proud” to stand with Gov. Matt Bevin in support of the bill.
FreedomWorks, based in Washington, D.C., this week started making automated phone calls in the districts of at least eight Senate Republicans who told Senate GOP leadership last Friday they did not support Senate Bill 1. Their opposition to the measure last week prevented a vote in the 38-member Senate, and the bill was returned to committee. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the chamber 27-11.
The calls asks people to tell lawmakers they support SB 1. “Without this important pension reform, Kentucky’s workers, teachers, retirees and taxpayers are all in danger,” the voice says.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Wednesday he is not sure the pension bill can be saved. Teachers and public workers have strongly opposed the measure, claiming it violates the state’s legal obligation to pay the pension benefits they have been promised.
“Even with the Senate president’s recent statement, we’re going to continue to put pressure on the Senate and House to fix Kentucky’s broken pension system,” said Colby Bledsoe, a spokesman for FreedomWorks.
The organization posted on Twitter Wednesday that it is “proud” to stand with Bevin and support SB 1.
Bevin, a Republican, has done several video interviews with FreedomWorks, which has endorsed him in the past. About five months ago, he talked in a FreedomWorks video about the importance of pension reform.
His press office Wednesday did not respond to a question asking if Bevin urged FreedomWorks to make the recorded phone calls.
Bledsoe would not say who specifically asked the group to get involved in Kentucky’s pension debate.
“We’ve been involved in pension reform campaigns in many states —last year we had big wins in Michigan and Pennsylvania,” he said. “This is an issue our activists care about and want to see it pass in Kentucky.”
Jim Carroll, a spokesman for the pension advocacy group Kentucky Government Retirees, said FreedomWorks is trying to “perpetuate pension hysteria” in Kentucky.
“Once again, an out-of-state dark money organization has big-footed into Kentucky to pretend it knows something about our pension issues and to perpetuate pension hysteria,” Carroll said. “Where have they been the past nine months when we have had intensive and detailed public debate about pensions? What expertise do they claim to possess? Why have they failed to read the actuarial analysis that shows that SB 1 does nothing to reduce liabilities in Kentucky Retirement Systems?”
FreedomWorks website says it advocates smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, and personal liberty.
Transcript of FreedomWorks’ automated phone call
The calls say: “Hello, this is ____________ with an urgent message about how you can save Kentucky's Pension System, paid for by FreedomWorks, 400 N Capitol Street Washington, DC 202-860-0993.
“Press 1 right now to tell your legislator to support Senate Bill 1 pension reform. Without this important Pension Reform, Kentucky's workers, teachers, retirees, and taxpayers are all in danger.
“Press 1 right now to tell your legislator, as a Kentucky taxpayer, you support fixing Kentucky's broken pension system and support SB 1.”