Wednesday, March 28, 2007
California's public retirement system invests billions into companies that do business with Iran. Today, state lawmakers discuss a bill that would stop that. A local politician is leading the charge. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps has this report.
California Assemblyman Joel Anderson is a Republican from El Cajon. He says the state's pension fund, CalPERS, shouldn't have any money in Iran.
Anderson: Here we have a country where the president has gotten up and said, "I want to eliminate another country of the world." He's also come out and he said that he wants to develop nuclear weapons. He also has said that he wants to fight the great Satan, when referring to us.
Anderson wants CalPERS to divest itself of companies that do business with Iran -- companies like Hyundai and DaimlerChrysler. These investments make up 5 percent of CalPERS' assets, and Anderson says they're at risk.
Anderson: What do you think's going to happen if we go to war? Either those assets are going to be nationalized, or they're going to be bombed.
Anderson's idea is not entirely new. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy says divesting does send a message. State universities and many pension funds cashed out of South Africa in the 1980s.
Anderson: The effect of that divestment campaign, together with other pressures, ultimately compelled the government in South Africa to abandon apartheid and, in due course, to fall from power. And I very strongly believe that a similar effect can be achieved with Iran.
CalPERS would definitely make a splash. It's the largest pension fund in the country. The CalPERS board hasn't discussed the divestment proposal yet.
For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.