A sign stands in front of California Public Employees' Retirement System building.
Given the size of its unfunded obligations and its recent performance, you'd think that board members at CalPERS, the state pension fund, would be worrying about nothing but returns.
You'd think wrong.
J.J. Jelincic, a board member who previously was president of the California State Employees Assn., told a reporter for Bloomberg that he favors considering the politics and views of money managers in deciding with whom CalPERS should invest its funds.
Specifically, Jelincic wants to know if money managers have given money to groups that argue for limiting public pensions -- or have been critical of CalPERS and public pensions.
Bloomberg quoted him as saying: “We obviously have an interest in defending defined benefits and we have an interest in defending public employees. If the people we are paying a lot of money to are working against us, we ought to at least be aware of it and have a conversation about it.”
It's the sort of comment that ought to make California taxpayers, from left to right, very, very afraid CalPERS should be focused on the highest return possible -- since taxpayers are on the hook for making up the difference -- rather than using its leverage to punish people who exercise their First Amendment rights. If anything, the CalPERS board should be seeking out critics, not trying to punish them.
Jelincic needs to retract this statement. It only helps those whom he wants to punish.