A Statement about Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s Support for WNET

February 12, 2014

For Immediate Release
Contact: Leila Walsh
(713) 554-1941
LWalsh@arnoldfoundation.org

Today, David Sirota published an article regarding Laura and John Arnold Foundation's funding of PBS affiliate WNET's "Pension Peril" series.  In his article, Mr. Sirota made false and incendiary allegations regarding Laura and John Arnold Foundation's relationship with this grantee.  Prior to the article's publication, and at Mr. Sirota's request, LJAF provided Mr. Sirota with information relating to the WNET grant.  We regret that Mr. Sirota failed to accurately convey this information, which we include below.
 
WNET independently identified retirement security as an area of interest.  It sought funding from a number of sources, including LJAF, for the "Pension Peril" series. LJAF approved a grant to WNET in the amount of $3.5 million. PBS and WNET are known for their in-depth coverage and objective reporting on a wide range of issues.  We were pleased to support their coverage of a critical issue regarding the fiscal health of our cities and states.  
 
From the outset, LJAF has respected and encouraged WNET's full editorial autonomy.  LJAF has never sought to influence in any way the content of the series, its programming schedule or any other editorial matter.  Our grant to WNET was made with the explicit understanding that WNET would provide fully independent reporting.  There are no provisions in the LJAF/WNET grant agreement relating to editorial content. 
 
The agreement with WNET is in all respects our standard grant agreement, which LJAF has signed with virtually all of our grantees (for a list of such grantees, see www.arnoldfoundation.org/grants).  As we explained to Mr. Sirota, that standard grant agreement provides LJAF with the ability to stop funding in the event of extraordinary circumstances, such as fraud or the change of leadership of a grantee.
 
The stated purpose of the grant, as set forth in our grant agreement with WNET, was to "educate millions of Americans on the implications of looming debt and the tough choices ahead as these unfunded liabilities threaten to crowd out funding for education, public safety and other essential public services." The project sought to "raise awareness of which cities and states are in the direst situations and how further crisis and/or bankruptcy might be averted, with a special focus on leaders confronting the issue head-on, proposed solutions and models of reform."  
 
The grant was explicitly made to further educational purposes only.  As such, the agreement provides that the WNET grant "will only be used for . . . charitable and educational purposes and will not be used to carry on propaganda, influence legislation, fund any political campaign, influence the outcome of any election, carry on any voter registration drives, or violate any applicable local, state, federal, or foreign law."  
 
We believe the issue of unfunded pension liabilities is of vital importance and will continue to support organizations that seek to raise awareness of the problem and pursue long-term solutions.  

 
About Laura and John Arnold Foundation

LJAF is a private foundation committed to producing substantial, widespread, and lasting reforms that will maximize opportunities and minimize injustice in our society. Its strategic investments are currently focused in education, criminal justice, public accountability, and research integrity. LJAF has offices in Houston and New York City www.arnoldfoundation.org