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Ron DeSantis bans public funds from being invested in ‘woke’ ESG projects

By Sarah May
|
May 4, 2023

In yet another demonstration of his commitment to making Florida the place “where woke goes to die,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday that bans state entities from investing in funds focused on so-called “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) criteria favored by the left, according to the Daily Mail.

In doing so, DeSantis rejected what he described as overreach on the part of “Davos elites” to infuse financial markets with their own far-left political ideology.

DeSantis Signs ESG Ban

The governor's office issued a press release on the ban explaining that by prohibiting state investments in funds concentrating on “woke” political agendas, Florida will encourage financial sector enterprises to adhere solely to their “fiduciary duty to make the best financial decisions for beneficiaries.”

Among the key aspects of the bill that were highlighted by DeSantis is the fact that financial institutions will be prohibited from “discriminating against customer for their religious, political, or social beliefs – like owning a firearm, securing the border, or increasing our energy independence.”

The measure also “blocks the use of ESG in all investment decisions at the state and local level, ensuring that only financial factors are considered to maximize the return on investment, protecting retirees and taxpayers alike.”

Further, the bill “prohibits state and local governments from using ESG as part of the procurement and contracting process” and “eliminates consideration of ESG factors by state and local governments when issuing bonds.”

“Not Gonna Fly Here”

According to The Hill, DeSantis proclaimed victory over progressive ideologies in the financial and investing realm during a signing ceremony for the bill.

Signage on display at the event read “GOVERNMENT OF LAWS, NOT WOKE POLITICS,” with DeSantis saying of ESG proponents, “They want to use economic power to impose this agenda on our society.”

“And we think in Florida, that is not gonna fly here,” DeSantis added.

“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,” the governor also explained, according to the aforementioned press release.

Republicans Praise Move

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis was among the Florida state officials praising the outcome, saying, “Just as the Governor fought Fauci – and won – he's fighting a WOKE-Wall Street that looks down upon everyday Americans.”

“WOKE-Wall Street wants to cozy up to the CCP and [transgender activist] Dylan Mulvaney! Left wing media can hate Florida all they want, but under Governor DeSantis' leadership, people are leaving Blue States in droves! Our stance against ESG is another signal to the rest of the world that Florida believes in prosperity, we believe in freedom, and we're a place where WOKE GOES TO DIE,” Patronis added.

Republican House Speaker Paul Renner concurred, saying, “Florida will not bow down to the political virtue signaling of martini millionaires. Corporations have no right to bypass our democratic process. Companies that engage in ESG hurt their customers and the communities they serve, including Florida's retirees, but making everything they produce more expensive,” he continued.

“ESG undermines our national security and bypasses our democratic process. I applaud Governor DeSantis for standing up to corporate titans who believe they are a law unto themselves and protecting Florida's hardworking families,” Renner further declared.

Critics Voice Skepticism

Despite the aforementioned enthusiasm for the bill signed by DeSantis, critics suggested to The Hill that the entire scenario is little more than a “political stunt” that will have limited effect in practice.

Professor Shivaram Rajgopal of Columbia University said, “It prohibits 'banks that engage in corporate activism. But what does that even mean? Should banks not get involved if a manager is simply a bad manager, and wastes shareholder capital?”

Brandon Owens, sustainability vice president at Insight Sourcing, told the outlet that regardless of DeSantis' declarations to the contrary, “limiting Florida's future investment options” will be all it actually accomplishes.

The issue of ESG investing came to the forefront earlier this year when Congress passed a measure overturning a Labor Department rule that facilitated the use of such criteria by fund managers in investment and shareholder rights decisions. That legislation was subsequently vetoed by President Joe Biden, marking the first time in his Oval Office tenure that he exercised that particular authority.