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February 13, 2014

Billionaire Arnold Funding PBS Reports on 'Pension Peril'

The foundation of philanthropist John Arnold, which has encouraged governments to adopt policies to do away with unfunded pension liabilities, gave $3.5-million to New York's PBS station for a series of news reports on the issue, according to news Web site PandoDaily.

The two-year "Pension Peril" series produced by WNET debuted in December, with segments airing nationally on PBS news programs detailing state and local governments' efforts to deal with unfunded pension liabilities.

A statement on the Laura and John Arnold Foundation site defends its support for the series, saying, "From the outset [the foundation] has respected and encouraged WNET's full editorial autonomy."

A foundation spokeswoman said WNET approached the philanthropy about supporting coverage of pension issues and that the foundation has no editorial control over the reports, which PandoDaily says hew toward the Arnolds' line on the pension issue. Mr. Arnold, a billionaire former Enron trader and hedge-fund manager, retired in 2012 to work full time on philanthropy. He and his wife ranked fifth in The Chronicle'Philanthropy 50 listing of 2013's top U.S. donors.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected from an earlier version that said the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has  financed political work.