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DeSantis shreds ESG, diversity funding as 2024 announcement grows near

By Sarah May on
 May 20, 2023

With his entry into the 2024 presidential race expected any day now, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis paid a visit to New Hampshire this week, where he delivered a speech blasting “woke” priorities such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in higher education, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) frameworks, and other culture war themes, as the Daily Mail reports.

DeSantis' remarks come as his ongoing battle with the Walt Disney Company continues to heat up, a fact which has prompted statements of concern from a number of high-profile members of his own party.

“Not a Bad Slogan”

Speaking to potential supporters in the Granite State, DeSantis touted what he views as the biggest successes his state has seen during his tenure, suggesting that they have relevance and applicability to the nation as a whole.

Referencing a recent magazine feature on the Sunshine State during his tenure, DeSantis told his audience, “Florida's got moxie.”

“Basically, they said, you know, it's the free state of Florida, where woke is broke, where men are men, and where business is booming,” DeSantis noted of the aforementioned piece, as Florida Politics noted.

The governor then signaled his agreement with the writer's characterization, saying, “And I'm like, you know what? That's not a bad slogan.”

DeSantis Touts Achievements

Building on that general theme, DeSantis went on to outline what he feels have been his administration's most significant accomplishments to date, particularly in terms of quashing far-left policies in business and educational settings.

Taking particular aim at those attempting to infuse DEI practices into state educational institutions, DeSantis told his audience, “If they're trying to use the university to foment things like social activism or political activism, that's not a good use of our tax dollars.”

The governor made specific reference to legislation signed earlier in the week that, according to a press release from his office, “prohibits higher education institutions from spending public dollars on initiatives that promote dangerous political and social activism, such as DEI initiatives.”

“We signed the bill. It is gone as of Monday,” DeSantis told the New Hampshire crowd. And it stands for diversity, equity and inclusion, but in reality, that's a veneer to impose orthodoxy on the university. If you object to that, watch out.”

ESG in Crosshairs

The governor also highlighted his administration's effort to curb the concept of ESG, particularly when it comes to banking and investment practices, referencing a bill he signed earlier this month banning state entities from investing in funds that use the aforementioned criteria, often viewed as catering to left-wing priorities.

“We also signed legislation knee capping this idea of ESG in our state. No ESG in our pension fund. We have [a] 180 billion pension fund. No ESG in contracting, local, state government,” DeSantis explained.

The impetus for the aforementioned bill, as DeSantis said at the time he signed the measure, was to encourage financial sector enterprises to adhere solely to their “fiduciary duty to make the best financial decisions for beneficiaries.”

“Through this legislation, Florida will continue to lead the nation against big banks and corporate activists who've colluded to inject woke ideology into the global marketplace, regardless of the financial interests of beneficiaries,” DeSantis asserted in early May.

Republican Concerns Emerge

Though DeSantis has been unwavering in what has become an escalating feud with Disney, which began when the company voiced opposition to Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, recent developments, including the entertainment giant's decision to nix plans to build a $1 billion housing complex in Orlando, have some Republicans sounding the alarm, as The Hill reports.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott is among those who have expressed concern that the fight may be getting out of hand, saying, “This is the biggest or second-biggest employer in the state. Half the tourism that comes to our state comes to visit Disney,” adding, “I think cooler heads need to prevail. My view is we have to do everything to help our businesses grow.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) agreed, saying, “I think where it gets problematic in the eyes of some people is when you start creating the idea – and I'm not saying we're there yet as a state – but the idea that somehow if you run crossways with us politically, whoever's in charge, then you may wind up in the crosshairs of the legislature for political purposes to make a statement at you,” further opining, “[i]f a Democratic [governor] and a Democratic legislature takes over Florida, they're going to go after Chick-fil-A?”

Putative Republican primary frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, has also slammed DeSantis' approach, saying that the governor “is being absolutely destroyed by Disney” and adding, “[h]is original P.R. plan fizzled, so now he's going back with a new one in order to save face. Disney's next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the governor,” comments that seem to foreshadow a war of words certain to heat up once DeSantis formally throws his hat into the ring for 2024.