Saturday, July 13, 2024

Just out (7/13/2024): Chapter 5 of David Pepper's novel "2025"

July 13, 2024

Chapter 5: DOJ Nightmare: Trump's "Revenge," Project 2025 and Presidential Immunity

Project 2025’s weaponization of the DOJ and FBI are dangerous enough. Throw in Trump’s vows for “revenge” and the Court’s recent decision on presidential immunity, and you have a truly lethal combination. A politicized system of justice, harnessed to target political enemies at all levels.

Chapter 5 of “2025,” below, describes how it could play out. Please read and share:

Introduction and Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Now, Onto…

Chapter 5


Capitol Monthly

“Woody Nuxhall”

By Randy Stegman 

Click HERE to read.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Call to Action from ORTA: Please contact the members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC). Ask them NOT to change the makeup of the STRS board.


Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association

July 12, 2024

New from the Blog in ORTA

Call to Action!
Representative Phil Plummer, Co Chair of the ORSC STRS Subcommittee, has proposed changing the makeup of the STRS Ohio board. 
Ohio's teachers should be represented by board members who were elected by them and will advocate for them.

“We need retirees input but people need to have logic and common sense.” - Rep. Phil Plummer

Please contact the members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC).
Ask them NOT to change the makeup of the STRS board.
ORSC Voting Members
•  Senator Mark Romanchuk: 
•  Representative Phil Plummer: 
•  Representative Beryl Piccolantonio: 
•  Senator Louis Blessing: 
•  Senator Hicks-Hudson: 
•  Representative Adam Bird: 
•  Lora Miller: 
•  Ed Montgomery: 
•  Dr. Anthony Podojil: 
Here is the current makeup of Ohio's pension boards.
•  OP&F: 9 trustees: 4 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  9 trustees: 4 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  11 trustees: 5 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  11 trustees: 6 active, 2 retired, 3 appointed
•  STRS: 11 trustees: 5 active, 2 retired, 4 appointed
STRS Ohio Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are incurring legal fees, defending themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them, if needed, pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Now it's time for us to show our support for them! Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund
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Thursday, July 11, 2024

Ohio’s public pensions should be free to consider all relevant factors, including ESG, to make informed investment decisions.

Proposed bill to hamstring pensions threatens Ohio’s economic stability and long-term progress

By Tinu Okotore,

Ohio Senate Bill 6 threatens our state’s financial health, economic stability, and long-term progress by prohibiting state pension systems from considering Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors in their investment decisions.
The value of ESG investing
ESG investing allows businesses and investors to consider Environmental, Social, and Governance factors in their decision-making. These criteria are not just trendy buzzwords but are crucial components of long-term economic health and stability. Ignoring these factors can lead to severe financial and social consequences, such as increased climate-related disasters, social unrest, and economic inequality. ESG investing helps identify companies that manage risks effectively and are positioned for sustainable growth, benefiting investors and society.
Debunking the fiduciary duty myth
Proponents of SB 6 argue that ESG considerations conflict with fiduciary duties to maximize returns. This perspective is fundamentally flawed. ESG investing involves recognizing and managing long-term risks and opportunities that traditional financial analysis may overlook. Companies with poor environmental practices face regulatory fines, litigation, and reputational damage, which can negatively impact financial performance. By considering ESG factors, investors can identify companies likely to perform well over the long term, thus fulfilling their fiduciary duty.
Economic benefits of ESG investments
Research consistently shows that ESG-focused investments can achieve competitive returns while managing risk more effectively. Morgan Stanley reported that in 2023 — a year riddled with volatility and recession — funds focused on “environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, across both stocks and bonds, weathered the year better than non-ESG portfolios.” Sustainable funds had a return of 6.9%, nearly double that of traditional funds’ 3.8% rate of return. Ignoring ESG factors can lead to investments in companies that may suffer from future environmental or social liabilities, ultimately harming returns. Ohio’s public pensions, which support millions of retirees, should not be restricted from considering these critical factors.
Climate change: a real financial risk
Critics argue that ESG policies, such as net-zero emissions goals, impose rigid political agendas on businesses. However, climate change is a significant financial risk that cannot be ignored. The increased frequency of extreme weather events, regulatory changes, and shifting market dynamics pose substantial business risks. By incorporating climate considerations into investment strategies, fiduciaries are not engaging in political activism but are fulfilling their duty to manage long-term risks.
Enhancing transparency and accountability
Contrary to the claims made by SB 6 proponents, ESG investing enhances transparency and accountability. Companies that disclose their ESG practices are more likely scrutinized and held accountable by investors and the public. This transparency improves corporate governance and ethical business practices, benefiting investors and society.
Public pensions: balancing returns and social impact
Public pensions are not just about maximizing returns; they are also about ensuring the financial security of retirees while considering the broader impact on society. By restricting ESG investments, SB 6 undermines the ability of Ohio’s public pensions to invest in a way that aligns with the values and long-term interests of Ohioans.
Parallels with the Chevron doctrine overruling
The recent overruling of the Chevron doctrine is reminiscent of broader attacks on ESG and responsible investing initiatives. Just as the decision undermines the authority of federal agencies to enforce critical regulations, the push against ESG frameworks seeks to limit the factors that businesses can consider in their strategic planning. Both movements are driven by a desire to reduce regulatory oversight and shift decision-making power away from specialized agencies and enterprises to less experienced or ideologically driven entities.
SB 6 is a step backward for Ohio. It ignores the growing evidence that ESG considerations are essential for managing risk and achieving sustainable returns. Ohio’s public pensions should be free to consider all relevant factors, including ESG, to make informed investment decisions.
Read this article online here

David Pepper on State Representative Phil Plummer's proposal that would give politicians complete control of the STRS Board

From David Pepper

July 11, 2024 

Make. Him. Famous.
Ohio State Rep. Proposes Stripping Retired Teachers of Their Democracy
July 11, 2024
It just never ends. It comes in so many forms, at all times. And—it’s happening again.
Ohio Republicans attack democracy on the front end: by gerrymandering, endless voter suppression and other tactics.
They attack it mid-stream: by trying to change the rules even as campaigns are taking place (like Issue 1 last year, or a new law this year, trying to undercut ballot initiatives when initiatives they don’t like are gaining momentum).
They attack it at the back end: by ignoring the results of referenda; by changing rules for the next election (as with Ohio Supreme Court races, when—after losing the majority—they changed the rules and defied court rulings until they got a new/friendly court); and by stripping power away from elections after candidates they don’t agree with prevail (the Ohio state school board).
(For those of you in other states, pay close attention to this—because this non-stop attack on democracy is either already happening or will soon.)

Amid all these attacks on democracy, NONE has been more aggressive and disturbing than what’s happened over several years of elections to the Ohio teachers pension board. (Reminder: that board oversees a $90B pension fund, and is made up of seven members elected by teachers and retirees who pay into the fund; and four appointees by statewide Ohio elected officials).

The Ohio politicians in Columbus don’t like how frustrated pension voters have been voting of late (they want more transparency and their COLA increase restored), so the politicians keep trying to undo the outcome of pension board elections. And the effort is so aggressive, its combined front-end, mid-stream and back-end attacks all at once.

BREAKING: yet another front-end/back-end attack is already being floated—which is why I write this today… So we can stop it. Read on….
Brief Background
First, last year, Governor DeWine illegally terminated the swing pension board member on the eve of an election outcome being announced. His illegal action nullified the result of that election (the majority would’ve changed hands but for DeWine’s act.)
Then, a few months ago and a year after his first interference (DeWine lost that legal battle when two courts found he broke the law), and days before the next election results were announced, DeWine suddenly revealed that a confidential memo emerged alleging impropriety against two board members, and called for an investigation. The Attorney General immediately sued to remove those two members. In the meantime, another “reform” candidate they don’t like won the actual election. So just as the year before, Ohio politicians are targeting the exact number of seats they need to nullify the outcome of an election they don’t like.
So far, though, these last-minute and blatant (in one case, illegal) antics haven’t been able to stymie the will of the retirees from changing the board majority and getting far more transparency about how their funds are being managed.
But…at least not to my surprise…Ohio politicians are STILL looking for ways to attack the election outcomes they oppose. In a truly brute force way. (But those paying close attention will recognize the latest tactic from the Governor’s and Jon Husted’s state school board takeover after they lost the majority of that board’s elected membership in 2022.)
Who’s making the proposal?
It’s clear that all the powers that be are lined up against the retires, but the face of it, at least, is this guy:
And what did State Rep. Phil Plummer (from the Dayton area….there’s no reason to list his district number, since that district, like all others, is in violation of the Ohio Constitution) propose?
His proposal is to remove at least some of the pension board seats that are elected by teachers or retirees, and presumably replace them with more political appointees. Doing this with just two members (and the number of seats alluded to is in the plural— “some”) would mean that the board majority would thereafter be made up of the politicians’ appointees.
And that would mean that the very public servants who pay into the system that exists for their benefit would have their voice turned into a permanent minority voice of the board. Permanently on the outside, looking in, over the management of their pension fund, that they built with their hard-earned service and their hard-earned funds.
Of course, this change to the board makeup would accomplish the exact same goal as the undemocratic, illegal attack that DeWine has been attempting for an entire year—removing the majority, elected by the voters, they don’t like. It’s also a classic Jim Crow maneuver.
How’s that for undemocratic?
And how’s that for arrogance?
How arrogant?
Here’s how this state rep, Plummer, justified his proposal to the media:“We need retirees' input but people need to have logic and common sense.” (My emphasis).
Note the “but”—contrasting the retirees’ input with “logic and common sense.”
Plummer even elaborated more: “Let's get people that have the knowledge, the background, the expertise involved to watch who is investing our money, how much they're investing where.”
Think about these statements!
Not only is this a direct insult of the current, duly elected members of the pension board, it’s an insult to the teachers and retirees who have voted again and again in these elections, with the same basic demands. Apparently Plummer doesn’t think these teachers and retirees, who directly rely on the fund for the rest of their lives (they don’t get Social Security), are capable of choosing knowledgeable members. Yeah—teachers just aren’t smart enough to figure it out, Phil!? Teachers!?!
And lastly, what a slap to democracy itself. (Ironically, coming from an elected state representative from the most corrupt statehouse in America. Look in the mirror, dude!).
(Plummer also floated the idea of merging all of Ohio’s pension funds).
What to do?
Folks, don’t let another attack on democracy even get started in Ohio.
If you’re a teacher or retiree in Ohio, it’s TIME to make Phil Plummer famous!
Here’s his office phone number: (614) 644-8051.
And here’s how you can send him a direct message.
Call his office! Send him a message!
Then spread the word to every retiree and active teacher and family member so they know to do the same:
And tell him: “Don’t you dare touch our democracy. Our hard work and contributions built this system, and you will NOT take our voice or our vote away.”
Add whatever else you want to share.
Remember: these are officials who aren’t used to hearing from the people. So a whole lot of calls can make a difference.
Then, Prepare for More
And folks, if Phil and his gang dare try to do this, I want to see thousands upon thousands of us outside the statehouse, making more noise than they’ve ever heard in their political lives.
Up to 500,000-strong rely on this pension one way or another. It’s YOUR fund. And that is an army far bigger than they’ve encountered before. If they dare attack the votes and voices of a group that size, it must rise up larger and louder than ever.
And if we are forced to do that, I know where I’ll be: standing right there with you.
It will only end when we hold these people accountable.
I’ll keep you posted on what happens….
More..... (not from David Pepper)
"Another lawsuit alleging misconduct has been filed against the Montgomery County Jail.  On Tuesday, Charles Wade of Englewood claimed in his suit that the actions of jail employees were inappropriate and a violation of his civil rights. This is the eighth active federal case citing wrongdoing against Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer’s office."

David Pepper is a lawyer, writer, political activist, former elected official, and adjunct professor, and served as the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party between 2015 and 2021.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Ohio lawmakers propose removing board members from teachers’ pension fund amid controversy

Ohio lawmakers propose removing board members from teachers’ pension fund amid controversy

By Morgan Trau

July 10, 2024

The entrance to the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System headquarters in Columbus. (Photo by Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal.)

Ohio lawmakers are the latest to join the governor and attorney general in trying to prevent reform-minded educators from taking control of the retired teachers’ pension fund. They have proposed removing the elected members from the board.

This comes as the state alleges the State Teachers Retirement System board leaders are involved in a public corruption scheme.

In a meeting Monday, the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) discussed solutions to the “STRS turmoil,” as co-chair of the committee state Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) called it.


The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) board is made up of 11 members. There are five elected contributing teachers and two elected retired teachers. The governor gets to appoint one investment expert. The speaker of the House and the Senate president get to jointly appoint an expert. The treasurer and director of the Department of Education and Workforce both get to designate an expert.

There is a debate on how STRS should invest money — through the current system of actively managed funds versus an index fund. Active funds try to outperform the stock market, have more advisors and typically cost more. Index funds perform with the stock market, are seen as more passive, and typically cost less.

In short, “reformers” want to switch to index funding, while “status quo” individuals want to keep actively managing the funds.

Former educator Robin Rayfield lost nearly $40,000 due to the STRS board mismanaging the $94 billion pension fund, he said.

He calls himself a reformer, and retirees like him have helped to elect board members who want a change, people whose main focus is providing a full cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

“That’s real money to a person like me,” Rayfield added.

He is the executive director of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA), full of reform-minded educators.

After the most recent election, reformers have taken control of the board, having a supermajority to implement new policies.

In May, Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit to remove two members of STRS, stating they are participating in a contract steering “scheme” that could directly benefit them. Yost started the investigation after documents prepared by STRS employees alleged that Wade Steen and Chair Rudy Fichtenbaum have been doing the bidding of private investment group QED Systematic Solutions.

Yost started investigating after STRS employees gave documents to Gov. Mike DeWine’s office. The office believes “numerous whistleblowers” wrote the 14-page memo, also including about a dozen other documents in an attempt to verify their allegations.

Steen and Fichtenbaum “seek to steer” as much as 70% of current STRS assets, which is $65 billion, to a “shell company” that has “backdoor ties” to the members, Yost argued.

The AG states that the pair should be removed because they broke their fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and trust when “colluding” with QED.

There has been constant fighting, two board resignations and now, state lawmakers are getting involved.

Retirement Study Council

The ORSC met Monday to hear from their senior research associate Jeffery Bernard on the status of STRS and its finances.

It was broken up into two sections: intergenerational equity and COLA. Intergenerational equity, simplified, is equal treatment in pension financing between generations.

Bernard is supportive of STRS’ current system. In short — he said STRS’ current plan is on track to be fully funded in 11 years, so pensioners should continue to follow the system.

Highlights from the 1.5-hour meeting, according to Bernard:

STRS has $20 billion in unfunded liabilities.

This causes significant challenges for intergenerational equity. This liability can’t be filled with new unfunded benefits, according to Bernard. There are also additional risks related to negative cash flow, investment returns and the ratio of actives to retirees that are exacerbated by the size of this unfunded liability, he added.

There have been no claw-backs of COLAs.

A COLA has been granted and “will continue until death,” he said. Other states have claw-backs, but Ohio doesn’t.

As we have previously reported, there has been a suspension of increases — significant for retirees who need this money and are dealing with inflation.

A COLA doesn’t equal PBI, a performance-based incentive

Bernard seemingly blamed the media for confusing ORSC members by not differentiating between COLAs and PBIs. He explained how they are two separate issues — one related to liability and benefits and the other related to compensation.

Educators have routinely stated that they are upset that investment staff continue to get bonuses while there is a restricted COLA for them.

As we have reported on numerous occasionsthe $10 million in bonuses given to investment staff last year, or even their lavish building, don’t hold a candle to the money needed to restore the COLA.

Now that the PBI is gone, there is a “chunk” of investment staff that are now earning “half of what they got.” Bernard fears that staff members will take jobs elsewhere, where the pay is more competitive.


ORSC staff have concerns regarding the recent “enhancement” of benefits.

Right now, the current active teachers are contributing more than is necessary to fund their benefit, Bernard said. That is good because it is meant to fix the STRS deficit. However, the board has redirected this money and has additional plans to redirect it, according to Bernard.

This may cause significant liability gaps in the system, he said.


Following the presentation, council co-chair state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, spoke about his ideas, ones which he proposed during the committee hearing that several of his colleagues looked interested in.

“There’s a whole lot of expenses this committee might get their arms around to lower the cost,” Plummer said.

He wants to get to the crux of the problem so that the entire funding system doesn’t go under.

“We need retirees’ input but people need to have logic and common sense,” he added.

Instead of the state having five different public pension funds and boards, there should just be one to manage all, he proposed. This means combining STRS with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund (OP&F), Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS), and School Employees Retirement System of Ohio (SERS).

“Let’s look at merging all five systems — we have five buildings, we have five different investment groups,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of employees, tremendous amount of overhead and costs. Can we lower it there? Can we quit spending so much money?”

He also wants there to be more oversight and restructuring of, at least, the STRS board to prevent possible instances of corruption.

“Let’s get people that have the knowledge, the background, the expertise involved to watch who is investing our money, how much they’re investing where,” the Republican added.

This would mean removing some educator-elected seats, Plummer acknowledged.

We asked if that could be seen as anti-democratic because the reformers just won the supermajority on the board, and this whole debacle is related to their interest in changing the investment structure.

“Well, it depends on how we set it up,” he answered. “If we have one major board, they still have a right to elect people.”

This was, obviously, a problem for Rayfield.

“We would be diametrically, adamantly opposed to any changes that reduce or eliminate teacher input into their pension,” the retired teacher said. “We live in a democracy.”

The lawmakers are now looking at drafting reform. Plummer mentioned several colleagues who are on board and will work to simplify this issue.

This wouldn’t be the first time lawmakers stepped in to change the function or set up of a board once they didn’t have the majority. Back in 2022, Democratic-affiliated candidates won control over the State Board of Education, and one week later, the Republican lawmakers moved a bill forward to strip their powers. That bill passed, thus creating the Department of Workforce and Education, leaving the BOE basically obsolete in comparison to its original form.

However, this step makes sense, Plummer said. This is to defend pensioners’ money, follow investment advice from actual professionals, and curb an alleged scheme.

“That’s a nonstarter right there,” Plummer said, when asked about QED. “We can’t — a brand new firm that doesn’t have a history — we can’t hand them millions or billions of dollars because when they lose those, we don’t have that money in the state to put back in the systems. That needs to be stopped.”

Read this article online here

Pepperspectives and STRS Ohio

ORTA Staff

July 10, 2024

Pepperspectives & STRS Ohio
David Pepper has published three videos within the past year about STRS Ohio.
Pepper talks about Governor DeWine's removal of Wade Steen from the STRS Ohio Board in May 2023, DeWine's subsequent appointment of a second repacement for Steen, and the Ohio Attorney General's recent lawsuit against Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen.
STRS Ohio Board members Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are incurring legal fees, defending themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them, if needed, pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Now it's time for us to show our support for them! 
Read this article here
David Pepper is a lawyer, writer, political activist, former elected official, and adjunct professor, and served as the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party between 2015 and 2021.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

STRS Acting Executive Director Lynn Hoover's 9-page contract and job description (signed 6/21/24)


Rudy Fichtenbaum: What Happens When STRS's Investment Performance is Evaluated Using Real Benchmarks

From Rudy Fichtenbaum

July 9, 2024

Robert Reich on private equity: The Most Predatory Industry in America

Click here to watch: 

Even the Wheeling News Register is writing about problems at STRS

Wheeling News Register

July 9, 2024

Monday, July 08, 2024

Toledo Blade Editorial Board: Restore pension confidence

Toledo Blade Editorial Board: Restore pension confidence

Mr. Steen and Mr. Fichtenbaum support a bonafide best practice, which used to be all Ohio allowed.

July 8, 2024

Controversy abounds at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio and soon all of the Ohio public pension systems, as state lawmakers are lobbied for big increases in employer contributions which must be funded by taxpayers.

Attorney General Dave Yost is suing to expel two STRS board members claiming they tried to steer a contract to invest $65 billion to an untested firm with no clients.

While it would have taken $65 billion to provide the benefits promised by advocates, the proposal rejected in November of 2021 was for a $250 million test of the concept.

The idea copied a successful strategy by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan and the Columbus startup behind the plan purported to have the HOOPP managers who created and managed the program joining their firm.

The size of the investment and the experience of the firm have been materially misrepresented. If the truth was as portrayed by AG Yost and Gov. Mike DeWine who originated the complaint, it would have been addressed in 2021 when the events were unfolding.

The attempt to remove STRS board members Wade Steen and Rudy Fichtenbaum is an effort to protect the status quo and keep the investment strategy that enriches pension staff with six-figure bonuses and dark money political action committees with donations from Wall Street money managers.

Mr. Steen and Mr. Fichtenbaum want to take the pension portfolio back to the days before Ohio’s legislature opened the door to private pension investments [Am Sub S.B. 82 1997] that could not be transparently valued and easily sold.

The legislature’s pension oversight body, the Ohio Retirement Study Council, has created a special subcommittee on STRS that meets for the first time Monday. Members would be wise to fix a pension mess of their own making that affects all state pensions, even the funds that aren’t in the headlines.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has just released a study of public pensions from 2000 to 2023, comparing the returns for complex actively managed funds using private investments for a large portion of their portfolio and the traditional stocks and bonds only which Ohio used to require by law.

The study finds the simple 60-40 split between stocks and bonds, using the broadest possible market indexes, match the results of the complex and costly active managed private market investments.

The Boston College experts conclude: “If public plans cannot reasonably anticipate higher long-term returns from a complex active approach they should stick with a simple transparent strategy.”

Mr. Steen and Mr. Fichtenbaum support a bonafide best practice, which used to be all Ohio allowed. Nearly all state pension controversy stems from the 1997 decision to change Ohio law allowing the complex portfolio that has been good for politicians and pension staff but harmful to beneficiaries and taxpayers.

If Ohio lawmakers fix the pension problem they created and mandate a return to nothing but transparent and liquid investments, the possibility to steer management contracts for personal or political benefit will be gone and public confidence will be restored.

Toledo Blade Editorial Board

July 8, 2024

The newly formed ORSC STRS Subcommittee will meet today at 1:00 pm ET. You can watch the livestream of the meeting on the Ohio Channel:

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