Divestiture sends right message

A bipartisan bill that requires Oklahoma public fund managers to eliminate indirect financial investments in terrorist states can help close the spigot of U.S. cash that unwittingly supports terrorism, the bill’s Senate sponsor, Oklahoma State Senator Andrew Rice (D-OKC), said Wednesday.

The bill is sponsored in the Oklahoma House of Representatives by Representative Terry Ingmire (R-Stillwater). 

Rice said passage of his bill will position Oklahoma among the nation’s leading states in recognizing that “we have the financial power to change the behavior of terrorist-sponsoring states.”

SB 1480 requires the state’s six public pension funds to enact all necessary provisions and take all necessary actions to ensure that no public funds are invested in companies that have direct financial relationship with countries designated by the U.S. State Department as “terrorist-sponsored states”.  Today, that list includes Iran, Sudan, Syria, Cuba and North Korea.  

Rice’s bill stipulates that no provisions shall apply to any company that is providing humanitarian aid for the citizens of these nations.

“Most people don’t realize that more than 400 international companies currently do business with terror-sponsoring states,” Rice said.  “By investing in those companies, U.S. public pension funds are helping these states pay for safe harbors, training, logistical support, false documentation and weapons.” 

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Rice said.  “Why should we financially enable our enemies?  Every state should pass a divestiture law just like this.”

Rice has been an outspoken advocate against terrorism since he lost his brother in the World Trade Center during the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil on 9/11/2001.

While U.S. law prevents direct investment in terrorist states, companies that do business with those countries are lawful investments for U.S. pension plans.  In the last two years, the states of Missouri, California and Louisiana have implemented divestiture legislation.

“This is the right thing for Oklahoma to do as a state and as a people,” Rice said.  “If America and other countries stop providing financial support to these terrorist states, they are going to act differently.”

Rice said that international divestment campaigns helped defeat apartheid and pushed South Africa to end its nuclear weapons program.  He also noted that financial pressures are largely responsible for Libya’s recent cooperation with the United States and the international community in the fight against terrorism.

“History has shown that financial pressure may be the most effective weapon against genocide and terrorism,” Rice said.  “These bad actors in the international community depend on outside investments to finance their governments and at least partially, their terrorism strategies.”

The following Oklahoma State Pension Funds would be affected if Rice’s divestiture bill becomes law:
* Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System;
* Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges;
* Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma;
* Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System;
* Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System;
* Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System.