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Legislator Backs a Different Kind

March 23, 2006 By:
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Freshman legislator Josh Shapiro is all in favor of divestment - just not from Israel. Instead, the Abington Democrat, who was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004, wants to use some $90 billion controlled by the commonwealth's two retirement plans as an economic weapon against Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism.

"I view Iran as the greatest threat to Israel, our greatest ally," states Shapiro, of the 153rd Legislative District. "We ought to use the economic tools at the state level to help win the war on terror."

To that end, Shapiro plans to introduce legislation upon the General Assembly's return to business April 3 that will direct the state treasurer to withhold investment dollars from companies that do business in nations listed by the State Department as terrorist-sponsoring regimes, including Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.

The problem, says Shapiro, is that Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish a list of companies conducting operations in those countries back in 2004. No such database was produced, leaving a handful of private research firms to compile their own tallies.

Once Shapiro's bill does become law - a distinct possibility, according to the legislator, who sits on the House Finance Committee in Harrisburg - the question will be whether to pressure the federal government to offer guidance on which companies to divest from, or to pay research firms for their information. Shapiro is open to either possibility, but says he will send out a letter later this week to the SEC, along with U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-District 13).

The initiative follows several state governments instituting similar laws. New Jersey passed a divestment measure in July; Illinois did the same in June. New Jersey contracted with Institutional Shareholder Services in Maryland to provide the data it needed to implement the divestment policy.

At Conflict Securities Advisory Group, a firm that advises New York City's government on divestment issues, CEO Adam M. Pener says more entities are realizing that choosing investments based on where they do business is relatively easy: "There are more than 400 businesses that do business in Iran. This is a question of political will, not logistics or money."

- See more at: http://je.pliner.com/article/2829/Legislator_Backs_a_Different_Kind/#sth...

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