Sen. Ken Cuccinelli Says: Disinvest in Darfur!
UPDATE: Eve Barner notes the time to weigh in is now:
They punted it to the Senate Rules committee, where it is scheduled to be heard tomorrow at 9:30. Please contact members of the Rules Committee and let them know that you want a vote on SB1331 AND you want them to vote YES.
Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli wrote the following letter advocating for the Virginia Retirement System to disinvest in Darfur. Seems like the least we can do:
There's one month of the General Assembly session left. These first two weeks have been nonstop action. Transportation system reform is occupying the attention of all of us from Northern Virginia. Three bills that I've read this weekend make up one attempt at a transportation package before the Senate, while the House is considering only one bill containing similar elements. The Senate bills are still before the Senate Finance Committee. So is a different bill that I'm thinking of as I write this letter to you.
Virginia government employees probably do not know that a small portion of their retirement funds are being used to indirectly fund genocide against the people of Darfur in the country of Sudan. Until recently, I didn't know that my retirement funds were being used to support genocide. When Congressman Wolf first brought this to my attention, he told me that six other states have already passed legislation to divest their retirement investments from companies that are helping to finance the Sudanese government...
In early December, Quinton Wiggins, a young man from who attends Westfields High School, also contacted me to ask what Virginia was going to do help the people of Darfur. So, working on a bi-partisan basis with a colleague from the House of Delegates, Delegate Shannon Valentine, I introduced SB1331. If it passes, my bill will require divestment by the Virginia Retirement System from companies whose business practices support genocide in the Sudan.
I've heard some people say that what goes on in Africa isn't any of our business. But we have never actually known about a genocide campaign while it was going on before. And, if we in Virginia can do anything to help stop genocide in the Sudan, I believe we should.
Last weekend, Congressman Wolf and I joined students from four local high schools in a first-of-its-kind webcast discussing the genocide in Darfur and how we can stop it. The students are passionate about ending the genocide and so am I. Congressman Wolf talked with us about his five trips to the Sudan, how the genocide is funded by foreign companies doing business with the government, and the hopeless, demoralized victims who are being targeted for death by the Sudanese government. You can see a replay of the webcast at www.Cuccinelli.org.
For the very first time in American history, both Congress and the President have declared an atrocity to be genocide while it is ongoing. American companies are already forbidden from doing business in Sudan. The offending companies are mostly Chinese, Malaysian and French firms that drill and buy Sudanese oil. The government then uses the money to finance its campaign to destroy the people of Darfur. This year, we are the first of 25 states to consider legislation that would take state retirees' funds away from these companies and reinvest them in other companies. Virginia alone has over one hundred million dollars invested in 8 of these firms (out of about 3,000 stocks in the whole $54 billion retirement system). If enough states join together and take their funds away from these irresponsible businesses, then their stock prices will drop. One way or another, if we all work together, these firms will pay a price for funding genocide in the Sudan and we will have done what we can to help.
While they are sympathetic to our cause, the Virginia Retirement System Board of Trustees opposes divestment legislation. They say that they don't want the General Assembly to tell them how to invest Virginia retirement funds. But if we won't intervene in genocide, what is a good enough reason to re-direct our retirement funds? While some have expressed concern that divestment might cost money from the retirement fund, this legislation is carefully crafted so that the only cost would be the transaction costs from selling off the stocks. The Virginia Retirement System can then reinvest in similarly rated stocks - with companies that do not fund genocide! And what if other states start selling off their stocks in these irresponsible companies and Virginia doesn't? If their stock value goes down, then Virginia employees and retirees could be left holding the bag.
My bill is scheduled to be heard this week by the Finance committee. But there is no guarantee that it will pass. Members of the Senate Finance Committee need to hear from you. Please call or email them and let them know that you support Sudan divestment now. You can find contact information for members of the Finance Committee at www.Cuccinelli.org. With your help, we can let the world know that Virginia will not support genocide, even indirectly.
Ken Cuccinelli, II
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