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Bill and Hillary's Teacher Pension Perfidy By: Peter Schweizer
NY Post | Monday, January 30, 2006


Bill Clinton has made corporate reform one of his top causes since leaving the White House. He calls for more "socially responsible" investing, better protection of workers and greater diversity in corporate management. At the same time, he condemns cronyism, excessive pay for top management and an alleged emphasis on short-term profits at the expense of workers.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee — has bashed corporations for their failure to live up to their pension obligations.

Yet, as the senior adviser to two investment funds managing public pension funds, Bill Clinton has himself promoted an investment fund that promises to put money into "lower-income urban and rural communities" — but instead devotes its cash to Al Gore's upstart cable channel and his wife's financial supporters.

At first glance, it seemed the perfect fit: Bill Clinton, corporate reformer, signing on as a senior adviser (and "active adviser," according to a company press release) to the Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund and the Yucaipa American Fund. Both get all their cash from pension funds from public-school teachers and government workers in California and New York state.

CALPERS, the huge California public-employee retirement fund, has agreed to commit $500 million to Yucaipa, and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CALSTRS) another $150 million. Millions more are to come from the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

Clinton's job, when he joined Yucaipa in April 2002, wasn't just to help make the rich richer: These were to be "investment funds that specialize in lower-income urban and rural communities," as The New York Times reported. Yucaipa managing partner Carlton Jenkins told Black Enterprise magazine that the funds were seeking out "urban-based minority or female-owned businesses."

And Clinton's role in the fund, Yucaipa head Ron Burkle made clear, would not be passive. "He's invaluable," said Burkle, explaining that Clinton would help raise money and offer investment advice to the funds.

But a venture that was supposed to help minority businesses and secure the future of pensioners in two of America's biggest states seems to have done anything but.

The Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund has already poured millions into Al Gore's new cable channel, Current Television. Gore's venture is headquartered in a tony neighborhood of San Francisco, which certainly doesn't seem to fit the definition of a "lower-income urban" community. Nor is it minority-owned — indeed, all the major investors are white males. (Indeed, by a who's who of major Democratic Party money people — including Joel Hyatt, former Democratic National Committee finance chairman, Rob Glaser of Realnetworks and Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems.)

Yucaipa told the San Francisco Weekly that Gore's enterprise "has a strong commitment to increase the representation of women and people of color." But the upper management of the network is completely white.

Indeed, one of the few signif icant minority-owned busi nesses that the funds have invested in is Sean John, the clothing enterprise run by that struggling representative of the "lower-income urban community," rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs. (A contributor to Hillary Clinton's campaigns with the potential of raising enormous sums for Democrats, Combs is likely to play a prominent role in supporting a Hillary run for the White House in '08.)

The funds' real emphasis, in short, seems to be Democratic cronyism. Another example: The Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund recently backed up a bid by Diversified Investment Management Group to take over Piccadilly Restaurants. DIMG is described by Fashion Week Daily "as a front for Ron Burkle," close friend and financial supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He's also the chairman of Yucaipa.

Some of the pension money committed to the Yucaipa funds arrived with curious timing. Carl McCall, then the comptroller of New York and thus the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, began the ball rolling with the Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund just as Sen. Hillary Clinton surprised many Democrats everywhere by endorsing his bid for governor — at a time when his chief opponent in the primary was Andrew Cuomo, who had served President Bill Clinton loyally as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The hundreds of millions flowing from California retirement funds come courtesy of California Treasurer Phil Angelides, a longtime Clinton political ally. Now running for governor, his bio mentions his important role (as state California Democratic Party chairman) in electing Bill Clinton to the presidency. The banner photo across his Web site features him standing side-by-side with the ex-president.

Yet, while all the players in the Yucaipa funds are Democrats, they seem a bit confused about their social mission.

When Clinton joined up, The Yucaipa American Fund proudly announced that its purpose was to invest in "industries and companies that maintain strong corporate governance practices and are sensitive to the interests of their employees."

Tell that to the employees of Aloha Airlines. The fund is backing a $100 million deal to take over the airline — but it has attached some very tight strings: It's making the deal contingent upon terminating the pilots' pension plan and contract. Yet the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. says the pension plan is not the problem; the airline can readily afford it. Pilots responded with a strike. (Just to round things out, the two major shareholders in the airline, Hawaii's Ching and Ing families, give overwhelmingly to Democrats.)

Meanwhile, the workers whose pensions have been invested in Yucaipa are getting a terrible deal. According to CALSTARS, California teachers have already committed $61.9 million of the $150 million that they promised Yucaipa. As of last March 31, three years after the venture started, they'd seen a grand total of $837 come back to them. Overall, the rate of return since the funds launched have been a loss of 12.1 percent.

CALPERS has not done much better. After pouring more than $116 million into various Yucaipa ventures since 2002, it's seen a return of $55,963.

At the same time, Yucaipa is also collecting hefty fees for managing the pension funds' investments — more than $3 million a year from CALPERS, and $3.5 million a year from the New York Common Retirement Fund. How much of this ends up in Bill Clinton's pocket is anybody's guess. He's not disclosing his fees. And why is Sen. Hillary Clinton, who appears to be so concerned about the state of our pension systems, silent about this?

Hypocrisy is not confined to one party or the other. But the coverage of it is partisan. The national media seem very interested in what Sen. Bill Frist might have done with money from his private trust. Why are they ignoring what Bill Clinton and Yucaipa are doing with hundreds of millions in pension money?

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Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.


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