Update: read more up to date info on action in the House here, here and here. There is an effort to get retirees to go to the floor hearings before the vote, which currently is scheduled to begin at 11am.
A little something, oh, like – its impact on Ohio and Ohioans. How novel.
Let’s start with the knowledge not possessed by one of the bill’s own sponsors, a lack of knowledge that sours the fact that the bill even got out of committee, as well as gives rise to Batchelder’s concern.
From the ABJ:
The Iran divestiture bill, sponsored by state Reps. Josh Mandel, R-Lyndhurst and Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, has received intense scrutiny in recent weeks following revelations that many of the most prominent international companies that employ thousands of Ohioans were on a list of firms marked as having financial ties to terrorist-supporting states like Iran.
Mandel said the bill has been narrowed to requiring the pension funds to divest from specific energy sector industries such as gas, oil, and mining, but broadened to now include the Sudan.
I must insert here that, the bolding of “revelation” is mine. As a writer, I know that revelation has an extremely specific meaning and implication for the one using it: he or she is most definitely hoping that the reader will make a very specific inference: didn’t know it before, wasn’t told before, is now being disclosed, when, before, it hadn’t been.
Mandel said the number of international companies was whittled from more than 170 to 19 currently conducting business in Iran.
He said he did not know how many companies doing business with the Sudan would be on the list, but those firms are not limited to the energy sector.
Don’t you think knowing how many companies doing business with the Sudan that will be on that list is something you would want to know before passing the bill out of committee? Kind of like how Mandel and Jones should have known that they owned GE stock, from which the pensions would be required to divest, before they introduced the bill in the first place? (Mandel has since sold his stock.)
What’s even more odd is that, thanks to my asking some questions of actual legislators and staff, I know that freshman legislators are particularly and specifically lectured on being careful about sponsoring and co-sponsoring bills – precisely because amendments can make them morph into something other than what the legislator thought they were when they started out. Mandel’s lack of knowledge about which companies are affected should be a red flag that he’s more committed to the ideology behind what he started out with, no matter the specifics, than he is to providing the best stewardship of Ohioan’s lives. Way too reminiscent of the Bush administration and its war policies for my liking.
State Rep. William Batchelder, who, by the way, is chair of the House Insurance committee, a committee upon which Josh Mandel serves, might almost wish that he could remain in the dark, according to this info from the ABJ story:
One of the companies on the Sudan list is Rolls Royce, an international firm being courted by the state to locate operations in the Cleveland area.
State Rep. William Batchelder, R-Medina voted for the bill in committee, but he said lawmakers were not made aware of the companies on the Sudan list.
Batchelder said it doesn’t make sense to tell the pension plans to divest in Rolls Royce at the same time the company is considering a major investment in Ohio. [my emphasis]
“We’ve had a lot of questions about bombs they make in Iran. The answer to that is not economic. It’s military,” Batchelder said. “You bomb the facility that’s making them. Ronald Reagan gave Libya religion by doing that and it’s just something we’re going to have to face.” [my emphasis]
Thank you, Rep. Batchelder. We’ve been turning purple in the face writing about that in the blogs.
So, what are we really talking about, in terms of the effect of this bill on Ohio now that it includes companies that have connections to the Sudan?
From the ABJ:
An analysis by Institutional Shareholder Services tabbed more than 70 companies in which the pension funds are investing that are also doing business in the Sudan and Iran, [State Teacher Retirement System spokeswoman Laura] Ecklar said.
If STRS could get ISS to do the analysis, why didn’t the Ohio legislators, before proposing this bill or amendment?
Probably in part because Ohio is just a seed state along with several others that certain think tanks and entities hope to manipulate to push emotional foreign policy issues into the state realm, to the economic detriment of pensioneers, as well as to the detriment of all Ohioans who need all the time the legislature can find to address Ohio’s top issues – like education, health care and jobs.
As Ecklar of STRS says in the ABJ story:
“We’ve said this before. The intent of the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors is well-intended,” Ecklar said. “We agree in premise. We don’t support terrorism or genocide, but we are instructed by law as part of our fiduciary duties to make a good return on our investments for our contributors and retirees.”
At a minimum, when they start the debate tomorrow on the floor of the Ohio House, someone damn well better have the fiscal impact information (which, you can see here, indicates not
hing but losses in revenues and increases in expenditures for Ohio) so that nothing comes as a “revelation” later that would make people sound like Hillary Clinton on the Iraq war votes.
I disagree with the move:
– The government in general needs to set rules as to how businesses should conduct themselves consistent with its foreign policy. If the government needs to make dealings with a particular country even more restrictive (and I believe in this case they should), companies obviously have to comply.
– Companies need to comply with the law and also the dictates of their conscience (if privately owned) or their best reading of their shareholders’ collective conscience (if publicly owned like GE).
– Private sector pension funds’ ONLY fiduciary duty under ERISA is to get the best possible returns for its members consistent with investment safety. It is that way specifically to prevent fund managers from engaging in agenda-driven investing. I’m not sure whether ERISA applies to public pension funds, but their fiduciary duty should be the same.
– It’s not that far of a trip from “don’t invest in any company that does biz with Iran” (legally), to “don’t do biz with tobacco, gambling, fast-food, or companies run by people from the other party.” At the extreme, it would lead to total realignment of investments every time the party in control of the statehouse changes and constant sniping about whether “GOP” or “Dem” investments are better performers.
Of course I support Israel and would like to see a pro-democracy coup in Iran yesterday.
Mandel selling his own stock is a move based on his own conscience, and he deserves applause for that. Mandel is out of bounds thinking that the pension funds should do the same. And if Shannon Jones thinks that the fund managers aren’t weighing risk correctly (a really silly claim unless she has real evidence), she should be calling for their ouster.
I have enormous respect for Tom’s writing and knowledge and analytical abilities, especially in areas of business and economics. I feel completely confident that if Tom is as against HB 151 as his comment indicates, then there is no question that the current bill needs to be defeated.