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villagesoup.com: Senator seeks to end state investment in firms with ties to terror nations

EXTRACT: …Strimling identified current investments by the state of more than $50 million in companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Siemens AG, Repsol, Hyundia and others that do millions of dollars worth of business, mostly in the oil, gas and energy industries of Iran, Syria and North Korea.

THE ARTICLE

PORTLAND (Sep 11): Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, said he would introduce legislation directing the state to divest its holdings in companies that do business in countries that support and finance international terrorism.

At a news conference at the Portland International Jetport where the events of 9/11 began six years ago Tuesday, Sept. 11, Strimling released a sampling of companies in the current investment portfolio of the Maine State Retirement System that are involved in major economic development projects in countries that have been identified by the United States as sponsors of international terrorism.

More than $50 million of state funds are invested in these companies, which are involved in the development of nuclear power plants, ship construction, oil and gas fields and other energy related projects in countries such as Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria.

“It’s outrageous to think that six years after the tragic events of 9/11, U.S. investors and taxpayers are helping to underwrite the economies of the very countries that want to kill us,” Strimling said. “Most people are shocked to discover that their own retirement accounts include investments in companies that do business with Iran and other terror nations.

“The Bush administration’s ‘War on Terror’ is just hollow rhetoric if we fail to use one of our most important weapons, economic pressure,” he continued. “These countries are using our money to buy the bombs and bullets that are killing U.S. soldiers today in Iraq.”

Strimling, the Senate chairperson of Maine’s Homeland Security Task Force, is also the sponsor of legislation that directed the MSRS to divest its holdings in companies that do business in Sudan due to the human rights atrocities in Darfur. That legislation resulted in the divestment of more than $18 million in such companies with no impact on the state’s retirement system’s bottom line or the pensions of its members.

“Now it’s time to do more,” he said. “We can hit these countries where it hurts, particularly Iran, which is behind much of the sectarian violence in Iraq.”

An analysis three years ago by the Center for Security Policy found that the Maine State Retirement System had $200 million — nearly 20 percent of its total portfolio — invested in companies with significant ties to terror nations. That amount may have come down with the passage of Strimling’s bill to divest holdings of Sudan-related companies.

But Strimling identified current investments by the state of more than $50 million in companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Siemens AG, Repsol, Hyundia and others that do millions of dollars worth of business, mostly in the oil, gas and energy industries of Iran, Syria and North Korea.

“We suspect the total amount invested with similar businesses is actually much higher than the $50 million we’ve been able to identify,” Strimling said. “That’s why my legislation also calls for a full review of the retirement system’s holdings, to identify all of the companies that should be added to the ‘do not invest list’ and a full accounting of how much Maine has invested in these companies.”

While it is illegal for U.S. companies to do business directly with countries identified as supporters of international terror, companies get around the ban through foreign subsidiaries. Other nations also have no such restrictions and their companies continue to attract millions of dollars from U.S. investors.

Strimling said several states have already begun divesting their pension funds from companies that do business with terror nations. If more do so, he said, it could bring significant pressure on these nations to end their involvement with terrorists.

“The best way to remember and honor the victims of 9/11 is for everybody to do all they can to ensure that it won’t happen again,” he said.

VillageSoup/Waldo County Citizen Editor Beth Staples can be reached at 207-338-0484 or by e-mail at [email protected].

http://waldo.villagesoup.com/Government/story.cfm?storyID=99636

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