- - Monday, February 27, 2023

The following are excerpts from a speech by Gov. DeSantis in Naples, Florida, on February 13, 2023.

“[We are] tackling this issue of ESG [because] elites grab it and they really want to impose it on the rest of us. It’s devolved into a mechanism to inject political ideology into investment decisions, corporate governance, and really the everyday economy.

That is not, ultimately, something that is going to work out well for us here in Florida or in the United States of America. There’s not a real groundswell for this from amongst the average citizen.

One of their big targets is domestic energy production [because] they do not want us to be energy independent. It’s bad policy [that] not only affects your bottom line in terms of the energy that you have to consume to go to work, to live and to do the basic things we all do, businesses to operate, but also it affects our national security. [ESG] helps China.

It also violates the fiduciary duty that executives have to the shareholders of the publicly traded companies. Your pension money, your retirement money is likely invested in some of these funds, and those funds should be used to try to produce the best result for you using the available investment options.

They’re using people’s pension money and 401K money effectively to advance a political agenda. And that is not an appropriate use of corporate power.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ESG Investments: Prudent or Perilously Political?

In Florida, one of our home-based companies is a private corrections company called the Geo Group. One of the main things [is to] provide services to the federal government in ICE to be able to detain illegal aliens who are coming across the southern border. A few years ago, Geo Group was de-banked by the major financial institutions in this country because they were basically trying to pursue a policy of de facto abolishing ICE and expressing support for open borders. So this was a company that was contracting with the federal government, and you had the banks cut them off and they have to try to find funding elsewhere.

That is using your economic power to advance a political agenda. I think having a politicized economy raises the idea of who governs our society. Our constitution says we, the people, govern through elections and different houses of the legislature, executive [to] arrive at policy.

People can evaluate, they can choose other people in future elections. ESG asset managers, these international folks, and big Wall Street banks don’t have to worry about winning an election. [They] want to do an end run around [because] a lot of the policies they pursue could never win favor with the American public.

I think, ultimately, it represents a threat, not just to a smooth, functioning, prosperous economy, but also our very freedom itself.

Last year we acted by prohibiting using ESG in the investments decisions for our state pension program. We’re going to build off that success with a number of proposals that we’ll look to get through the legislative session. So first, we’re going to put what we already did into statute so that our investment decisions with the money of firefighters, cops, teachers, other people that have worked in state and local government and have qualified for pensions here in the State of Florida, that those decisions are being made and what the best interests of the pensioners are, or the beneficiaries not based on political considerations. We are also going to enact protections for Floridians against discrimination by big banks and large financial institutions for their religious, political, or social beliefs.

We are also going to, in the State of Florida, prohibit these same institutions from using so-called social credit scores in making banking and lending decisions. It’s a way to try to impose politics on what should just be economic decisions. We’re making sure to protect this as a sphere of economic decision-making, not political activism.

We’ve got a massive budget surplus in Florida. None of those deposits will be permitted to be made in institutions that are pursuing this woke ESG agenda.

And finally, we’re also going to make sure that ESG is not infecting other decisions at either the state and local government: no investment decisions at the state or local government with ESG, no use of ESG in procurement and in contracting, and no use of ESG when issuing local or state bonds.

This is an elite-driven phenomenon [that] they don’t really have the persuasive ability to get this done through the democratic process. We will stand up for folks in places like Daytona and Destin, and we will not be following the elites in places like Davos. Freedom [means] freedom to live your life free from this agenda being jammed down your throat, free for you to think for yourselves and to make your own decisions.”

• Governor Ron DeSantis is the 46th governor of Florida. Prior to winning two statewide elections, he served as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s Sixth District. Before public service, he worked his way through Yale University, where he graduated with honors and was the captain of the varsity baseball team. He graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he earned a commission in the U.S. Navy as a JAG officer. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service and the Iraq Campaign Medal. After active-duty service, he served as a federal prosecutor and still serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve. These excerpts come from remarks made by the governor at a press conference in Naples, Florida, on February 13, 2023. Those interested in listening to the governor’s full remarks can do so on the governor’s online video catalogue.

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