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Friday, January 1, 2010

End South Dakota Investment in Terrorism

Pat Powers is right: this is an issue where we strip off the party labels and talk about doing the right thing.

Dakota War College spotlights a gross injustice in South Dakota's state investments. According to Powers, of the money we use to fund pensions for our state employees, 29% is invested with companies connected to terrorist states. Of 55 companies where we invest our money, 44 deal with Iran, 18 deal with Syria, 16 with Sudan, and 10 with Libya.

If you think President Obama is a menace for suggesting we talk with Iran, how do you feel about Pierre investing your money there?

Powers notes that the honchos of the state investment council and retirement system are pushing legislation to keep the Legislature from interfering with their investment decisions, even if those decisions are socially unsavory. He says State Rep. Dan Lederman is leading a group of legislators who will fight to get our money out of Iran.

Powers makes a clear call to all South Dakotans to get on board with terror-free investment of state dollars. I can't argue with that. Yes, social investing would create some more hassle for state investment officer Matt Clark. But he gets paid big bucks to do hard work like that. He also gets paid big bucks to do the will of the people of South Dakota. I suspect South Dakotans will agree that no marginal growth of our state investment fund is worth funding roadside bombs, political oppression, or genocide.

Keep an eye out for Lederman's bill... and morality in state investments.


  1. Iran is the 6th largest producer of energy for the European Union. China is digging for copper in Afghanistan and drilling for oil in the Sudan.

    Worldwide business today has no moral boundaries and is only grounded in profit. If Rep. Lederman wishes to clear his conscience, perhaps a letter to our President or our Congress demanding no nation building with our military would be more in line.

  2. Globalization of the economy has made investing extraordinarily complex. Most of the companies involved in the countries designated as terrorist supporters are oil and energy companies. If the council was restricted from investing in these companies, have you any idea what would happen to the retirement funds?

    This is a problem, but not one that originates with the investment council. Every time we fill our gas tanks, we are "investing" in these terrorist-supporting countries.

    The very people who want to restrict the investments are the ones who ridicule the idea of moving off of carbon-based fuels to alternative energies, a move which could make it possible, and even necessary, to shift investments from global energy corporations to American-based firms. But even that is problematic. The biggest developers of wind energy in South Dakota, for example, are Australian and Spanish corporations. And some of the best engineering for alternative energy production and delivery is coming from foreign corporations with operations in those designated terror-supporting countries.

    The problems are recognized by the Obama administration, which is why it is flirting with nuclear energy, even thought we have not solved the problem of dispossing of nuclear wastes.

    And all of this is tied into global warming and the drastic shifting of weather patterns, which is also denied by those proposing investment restrictions.

    Suffice it to say that South Dakota is taking its usual Neanderthal approach to a problem that is essentially one of the future of the planet.

    Happy New Year.

  3. David, thanks for pointing out the daunting complexity of keeping your money clean in the global economy. I wonder: is there any chance a social investment restriction on our state funds could at least be a first step in the right direction, something to set a tone/precedent that we could build on in Pierre?

  4. The world isn't evolving fast enough to allow all "smart" energy investments with no terrorist ties, but perhaps the legislature could place a limit or give direction to the investment council. If we limited investment in companies who have links to terror-growing countries to 10% of the portfolio, reducing it by 1% each year, after ten years we would be relatively clean. What we do as a state will make no financial impact, but if 50 states move in that direction, there would be impact.

  5. Well, we should start something, somewhere, while our 211 and another company from SF are out there taking the brunt of our investments! Grrr...

  6. Rod, Powers's earlier coverage on the topic pointed to an April 2009 Bob Mercer article that said a couple dozen other states have passed legislation banning Sudan investments. Should we join them?

  7. I also notice that our District 8 Rep. Mitch Fargen voted for Bernie Hunhoff's bill (2009's HB 1098) that would have divested our state holdings in Sudan. Reps. Dreyer, Greenfield, Jensen, D. Novstrup, Pitts, Rounds, and Solum killed the bill in committee.D.

  8. Cory -

    I'll have to quote you on this post.

    (The part where you say "Pat Powers is right.")

  9. And, I might add that the first to bring it the issue of SDIC's investment in terror supporting countries was former legislator Ron Williamson of the Great Plains Public Policy institute.

    We can do better than supporting Sudan, Iran and China.


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