Monday, April 16, 2007

Terror-Free Funds

I see this as the reverse of the Israeli boycott campaigns.
--Wendy in Washington

Missouri Treasurer Crusades to Deny Funds to Terrorists
By Joshua Brockman - Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman may be far from the front lines in the war on terrorism but she's on the cutting edge of efforts to fight it with the power of the U.S. dollar.

The first woman elected as Missouri's chief financial officer, Steelman is leading a campaign in the Show Me State and beyond to get state and local governments to stop investing publicly managed funds in companies that do business in countries believed to sponsor terrorism.

"Whether you're for or against the war, there are Americans sacrificing their lives on a daily basis for the protection and security of the U.S. And yet we don't move our most powerful weapon -our financial markets - to help and make sure that we are not funding terrorists. I'm not going to wait for the federal government. It's my job as state treasurer to do what I can here in Missouri," Steelman, a 48-year-old Republican, said in a telephone interview.

After taking office as treasurer in January 2005, the former professor, broker and state senator severed her office's business relationships with foreign broker dealers such as BNP Paribas because of financial ties to Iran. In July 2005, she persuaded fellow board members of the Missouri State Employee Retirement System, which oversees $7 billion in investments, to adopt a process to screen and divest from companies associated with governments sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Last July, Steelman engineered the first public fund to become "terror-free" in the United States. The international fund filters out companies with ties to four countries - Iran, North Korean, Sudan and Syria - on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. In December 2006, she helped to make Missouri the first state to approve a plan to offer a "terror-free" 529 college-savings program that will be offered to all state residents in late 2007.


Legislation was introduced this year in nine states - California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon and Texas - to prohibit state funds from being investing in companies doing business in Iran. And 27 states saw bills this year aimed at divesting from companies that do business with one or more of the countries named as sponsors of terrorism, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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