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Red states use purse strings to check momentum of ESG woke investing movement

ESG investing "is a political agenda that does not benefit the American people," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Published: February 21, 2023 12:09pm

Updated: February 23, 2023 7:01am

With the woke investing movement known as Environmental Social and Governance gaining steam in corporate boardrooms and asset management firms across the U.S., red states are pushing back.

The ESG counteroffensive includes economic and legislative moves ranging from the leveraging of public investment to laws mandating that fiduciaries of public funds make investment choices based on financial rather than ideological criteria.

Oklahoma GOP Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, for instance, signed a bill last year titled the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, which requires his state to divest holdings in financial organizations that boycott the energy industry.

"The way I approach stuff is really just common sense in protecting our assets and our way of life in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said in an interview on "ESG: Woke Workplaces and Dangerous Investments," a special report hosted by John Solomon on Real America's Voice and sponsored by Heritage Action for America.

ESG ideological scoring of companies and screening of investment opportunities has often been likened to the "social credit" system used by China's ruling communist elite to enforce political conformity on its population. Stitt argued it just doesn't make sense for Oklahomans to allow their assets to be invested in corporations working against their interests. 

"If I'm supposed to be protecting my pension plans, we have billions and billions of dollars that are protecting public employees: my teachers, my police and my firefighters," he said. "Why in the world would I allow those [ideologically motivated ESG] investments to be done when the shareholder value wasn't the main objective for those investments? It makes no sense whatsoever."

West Virginia has been in the forefront of efforts to combat ESG by barring state investment through financial institutions steering capital away from the fossil fuel industry, a major source of income and jobs in the state, which was the nation's second-ranking coal produce in 2021. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey blasted President Biden on the special report for unilateral executive actions on climate change he argues usurp the constitutional powers of Congress.

"You have to go back to the beginning of the Biden tenure where he basically said that he wanted to advance his climate change policies," Morrisey said. "He was going to enlist every single federal agency, notwithstanding whether they had any authority or not to act in the area of climate change.

"As many people know, all these agencies have no authority to act on climate change. That's the role for Congress." 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton highlighted the threat to union members's retirement security posed by the financially unsound investment of union pension funds to support a left-wing social engineering agenda. 

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who are affected by being part of a labor union," said Paxton. "A lot of times they're not the most highly compensated, so every dollar is going to matter. When you talk about compound interest and the impact that lower returns will have on their lifestyle, it's going to be significant, and some of them really are not going to be able to retire ... because the investment returns are lower."

ESG investing "is a political agenda that does not benefit the American people," Paxton declared, noting "those who can least afford it are going to be the most affected by it." 

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