By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The leadership of the Republican supermajority wants to reform the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). Along the way, their efforts have been buoyed by, The Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University. The Johnson Center is one of many institutions which is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation (Koch is pronounced like the soft drink, Coke).
During a gathering in Las Vegas this past April, Dr. George R. Crowley, Associate Professor of Economics and Associate Chair of Economics & Finance at Troy’s Johnson Center, spoke at the event, hosted by the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE).
Crowley was introduced by Brennan Brown, with the Charles Koch Foundation, who claims he is a “recovering economics professor” having found the light through Koch inspired teaching. He called those who would speak that day edupreneurs, a combination education and entrepreneur.
Crowley was one of four panelists who Brown hoped would inspire other professors to follow his lead.
During a discussion on the political work the Johnson Center is doing in Alabama, they cited the anti-Obamacare campaign lead by John Dove and Dan Smith, other Johnson Center Professors whom he says, “kind of made some waves,” with their “Mercatus, kind of, State diagnostics.” He was referring to the type of work being produced at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which is also funded by the Koch Foundation, as well other industrialists. The Mercatus Center is not an official part of George Mason University, but a 501(c)3 non-profit which is funded through donations, including corporate donations from ExxonMobil.
Next, Crowley brags about how Smith is working to “bring down” the RSA.
“Smith has kind of taken it upon himself to try to bring down the State pension system [laughter] ..] at least in getting the conversation going there.” He also says, “I’ve done my stuff on tax reform, I’ve got a Mercatus [thing?] that will be coming out soon.”
“Bring down” the State retirement pension fund and “stuff on tax reform,” Crowley sees as a legitimate academic pursuit, stating, “ And in each one of these cases, it actually makes it, so that when you go into the classroom, you talk about these things, you try to get students interested, you can point out, ‘Look we actually are doing stuff, this stuff actually matters out there in the real world.’”
Crowley further explains, “It’s important of course to make sure that you’re not just like shooting from the hip all the time and just writing pithy Op Eds… I really think it all comes back to making sure that we’re communicating the ideas themselves actually matter to the students.”
He refers to Troy as a third-tier college with, “ a lot of students that are kind of first generation college kids from rural Alabama that show up, haven’t been exposed to any of this stuff. You turn them on to it and they actually just kind of run with it, get very excited. Obviously, [inaudible].”
In his comments Crowley speaking on Troy Universities leadership he says, “We’ve had an administration that has kind of let us get away with a lot, as far as hiring people very rapidly and ramming through some of the curricular kind of stuff.”
He also told the attendees at the Koch Foundation sponsored event that he and the team at Troy were, promoting “public policy discussion in a way that it’s never been before, and that’s not usually the kind of thing that.. You do have to be, not just a pure ideologue, dogmatic, kind of just shoot from the hip, you have to actually be doing good work.”
“Pure ideologue, dogmatic, agenda-driven academics seemed to be the message Crowley conveyed in Vegas. He also made it clear that those at the Johnson Center were working to influence policy at the State level.
When the Republican supermajority took control of the State House, one goal was to take power from the Alabama Education Association (AEA). Another objective was to control the RSA seizing the multi-billion dollar fund for their own purposes. As revealed in the criminal trial of Mike Hubbard who was found guilty on 12 felonies, the public learned that Hubbard coordinated all legislation with aid from Billy Canary, Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama and Dax Swatek, Tim Howe and John Ross whose firm was the favored lobbying group.
Rep. Alan Harper is seeking to replace Hubbard, and has stated he wants to dismantle the current retirement system.
Along the way, Republican leadership’s position on RSA has been buoyed by The Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University, and those standing behind Crowley.
Transcripts provide and audio found on kochileaks at UnKoch My Campus.