Specifically, according to the AP, Tennessee is one of 20 states where this is allowed. The lobbyists, who are reportedly entitled to public pensions, represent associations of counties, cities and school boards.
But TCRS spokesman Blake Fontenay calls the AP research “misleading,” at least as it applies to Tennessee.
“Those articles made it seem like the state is bearing the costs for the pensions for these people, and that’s not the case,” Fontenay said.
An unspecified number of what Fontenay calls “quasi-governmental agencies” belong to the TCRS. Lobbyists work for those agencies, but Tennessee is not subsidizing their retirements, he said.
“These organizations that are part of TCRS are required to cover all of their own costs and assume all of their own liability for their retirees. It’s not costing the state anything for them to be members of TCRS. Even for the administrative costs, they have to pay their own share of that. It’s kind of a wash for us.”
AP research, though, said legislatures in all 20 of the states were the ones that allowed this system.
“Legislatures granted such groups access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public, but several states have started to question whether they should be included since they are private entities,” the AP reported.
Officials in several of those 20 states, including Pennsylvania, are questioning the wisdom of such laws.
Fontenay was compiling a list for Tennessee Watchdog of the state government agencies that have lobbyists, but he had not gathered them all by late Thursday.
Fontenay did not respond to questions concerning what kinds of safeguards Tennessee has in place to prevent a lobbyist from participating in the public pension system.
Contact Christopher Butler at email@example.com.