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NewsDay.com: Lawmakers push to divest NY from companies with terror ties (includes Royal Dutch Shell)

AP: June 17, 2007, 12:37 PM EDT
 
NEW YORK — State Sen. Jeff Klein called Sunday for New York state to divest its pension funds from companies that do business with the nations on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist nations: Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea.

“Do we really want our dollars going to our enemies?” said Klein, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester. “Clearly it seems strange that New York state is sending young men and women overseas, however we’re not yet tapping our most important weapon, our pension fund.”

Joined by other lawmakers at a news conference in front of the United Nations, Klein released a report that found that New York’s public employee pension fund has about $12 billion invested in 235 companies that have direct dealings with the four nations. Those companies include Chevron Corp., Coca-Cola and Royal Dutch Shell.

“As citizens of New York we can show that we are still as united against terrorism as strongly as we were on September 11th, but New York’s future cannot be in conflict with the crusade for moral righteousness that this country faces on a daily basis,” Klein said.

A growing number of states have passed or are considering legislation to pull their investments out of companies that conduct business with the four nations on the State Departmet list. Misssouri led the way last year when it became the first state to order its employee pension funds to dump shares of companies that deal with those four countries.

At least six states _ California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon _ have begun to divest public pension funds from Sudan, where the government and its militia allies are accused of pursuing a genocide campaign in the Darfur region.

Last week, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said he would pursue possible divestment of funds from Sudan, saying, “The genocide in Darfur is a challenge to our collective capacity to do good.”

Klein said he has introduced legislation, The New York Terror Free Investment Act of 2007, that would require the state comptroller to to divest from and refrain from any further public pension fund investments in the four nations on the terror list.

“New York State has the second largest pension fund in the United States after California,” he said. “If the big pension funds get together and pass these laws there’s a tremendous amount of leverage.”

State Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat, said, “By diverting our investments from countries that sponsor terrorist organizations, we are not only securing the future of New York’s investment portfolio, we are making the world safer from terror. New York should lead the march toward fiscal and moral responsibility.”

Klein’s report was compiled with the assistance of Conflict Securities Advisory Group Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based research and consulting firm.

Divestment as a means for political change was used successfully against South Africa’s apartheid government during the 1980s.

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