The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline reported this morning that state Treasurer Dennis Milligan had yanked $125 million out of money market accounts managed by BlackRock because he doesn’t like the politics of some of its investment decisions.
“Once we began to see BlackRock’s active global political activity (handpicking companies that aligned with their ESG beliefs and beliefs we feel most Arkansans are opposed to), we began divesting and were fully divested by March 1,” Milligan spokeswoman Stacy Peterson said in a written statement.
She said ESG refers to environmental, social and governance practices.
It’s the now-familiar Republican meme. If you are not for burning carbon-based fuels, you are not a good Republican and, by extension, not a good Arkansan. Milligan presumes to know what’s best for Arkansas and what all Arkansans believe. His spokesman spoke of BlackRock’s investment in clean energy and divesting fossil fuel stocks.
It’s rank politics by Dennis Milligan. It’s also useful to Mark Lowery, who’s braying about the Milligan decision to create noise for this historic deadbeat’s challenge of Sen. Mat Pitsch to succeed term-limited Milligan in managing the state’s money.
Pick your favorite description for this foolishness: Slippery slope. Camel’s nose in the tent. Unintended consequences. Disingenuous. Stupid.
The treasurer’s responsibility is to get the highest, safest return for the billions in state tax money he or she handles.
Politics should not play a role.
You need not look far into the billions invested in the state retirement systems to find money invested in enterprises many in Arkansas might find unworthy. Some might find profit-gouging oil companies unworthy of taxpayer investment. Or makers of alcohol. Or companies that support boycotts of cities and state with discriminatory practices. Or companies that proudly promote non-discrimination against LGBTQ people, even hire them.
If we invested only in companies of which Milligan or Mark Lowery approve, we might be down to thoroughbred tracks for horse fancier Milligan and, what, maybe Ashley Madison for Lowery?
Or maybe Walmart. Yeah, that’d be safe, right?
No. Not Walmart. Have you seen the ways the Walmart billions have been put to work supporting sustainable environmental practices; encouragement of diversity and other laudable goals? By one account, Walmart itself added more solar projects than any corporation in the U.S. On the passage of Biden’s infrastructure bill with a huge investment in greener energy, the Walton Foundation’s head commented: “Climate change is impacting nearly every community and person on Earth…” Apparently not Arkansas and Dennis Milligan.
OK, forget Walmart. What about Arkansas trucking colossus J.B. Hunt? Nope. They are making a huge investment in alternative fuel vehicles.
And on it goes, with champions of a greener Arkansas including former Republican legislator Ted Thomas, now chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, and former Republican and former legislator Nate Bell, now a solar energy believer.
Milligan is playing to the peanut gallery. Why not? Results show that the peanuts in Arkansas can be played.