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PA House Leader, Treasurer Move to Divest Russian Assets

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) Monday announced plans to introduce legislation to divest Pennsylvania of any Russian financial assets the commonwealth might hold.

And his fellow Republican, state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, is already on the case.

“In light of Russia’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation, the Pennsylvania Treasury immediately began divesting its holdings in all Russian-based companies last week,” said Garrity. “The divestment will be complete by the end of business today (Monday). While these holdings were very minimal, immediate action was necessary to protect Pennsylvania taxpayers and to show our support for Ukraine.”

Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have the second-largest Ukrainian-American population of any urban area in the country, according to the Census Bureau. (New York City has the largest.)

“Clearly the people of Pennsylvania stand with the people of Ukraine and against this unprovoked Russian aggression,” Benninghoff said in a statement. “Over the weekend, the Liquor Control Board pulled Russian-made vodka from its shelves, something I commend, and the Capitol was lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag. But I think it is time we start moving beyond symbolism and get to concrete action with what Pennsylvania can do to hold Russia accountable and apply pressure to stop this attack on the innocent people of Ukraine as well as the viability of Eastern Europe.”

“The commonwealth’s public funds represent a substantial amount of investment power. We have a moral obligation to ensure that our public fund investments are not inadvertently supporting those who are engaging in an unprovoked invasion of their democratically elected neighbors,” he added.

According to a co-sponsorship memo released Monday, Benninghoff’s legislation would divest the Commonwealth’s holdings in the State Treasury and pension funds from investments that are connected to the Russian government and its critical supporters.

The effort would expand upon Act 44 of 2010’s divesture of the State Treasury and pension funds from investments related to Iran and Sudan.

On Sunday Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state Liquor Control Board to stop selling Russian products.

“As a consequence of Russia’s horrific actions in launching an unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, the administration is currently reviewing all commonwealth procurement contracts to ensure that we are not providing any financial support to Russia,” said Elizabeth Rementer, the governor’s press secretary. “We support the Treasurer’s action to divest from Russian assets and would review legislation that would further divest from Russian financial assets. We also applaud PLCB for taking swift action to remove and cease selling Russian-sourced products.”

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PA’s Garrity Calls Out Biden Banking Pick: She’s a Danger to Energy Jobs

Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined the growing list of Republicans calling on President Joe Biden to withdraw his nominee for a top Federal Reserve post. 

Many Republicans believe Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s pick to become the Fed’s top banking regulator, is too extreme for the job. On Wednesday, a group of 48 congressional Republicans sent a letter to the White House asking Biden to pull Raskin’s nomination as vice-chair of supervision, warning her past statements indicated she would “irreparably politicize the Federal Reserve and destroy what remains of its credibility and independence.”

Two weeks ago, Garrity joined a group of state financial officers who released their own letter expressing reservations.

“We oppose Ms. Raskin’s radical banking and economic views and are deeply concerned that she would use the supervisory authority as Vice-Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank to disrupt the private banking sector, reliable energy supplies, and the U.S. economy,” the state financial officers wrote.

Republicans charge that acting on her progressive climate change views would result in severe job losses in the petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries. Democrats say the job losses are countered by those that would be created in the green energy sector or jobs would be lost anyway due to the continuing climate crisis that they believe confronts the world.

Stacy Garrity

“The nominee is a risk to reliable energy companies and the millions of people who are employed by them here in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Garrity said. [Raskin] has claimed that the fossil fuel industry is a dying industryand actively worked against it. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administrations preliminary data for 2020 show that energy produced from petroleum, natural gas, and coal accounted for about 79 percent of total U.S. primary energy production.

“These energy industries are critical to our nations economy, and its clear that Ms. Raskin is not the right person to serve in this position. If President Biden doesnt withdraw the nomination, the Senate should swiftly reject it,” Garrity added.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) had similar objections to Raskin.

Todays hearing is not just about vetting [Biden’s nominees], its really about the Feds independence and whether or not were going to abandon a core part of our democracy,” Toomey said.

Democrats argued many of these attacks have been overblown and are politically motivated.

We have seen a coordinated effort by some to paint her as a radical… that characterization requires a suspension of common sense,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Many of the objections to Raskin stem from a New York Times piece she wrote in 2020 entitled, “Why Is the Fed Spending So Much Money on a Dying Industry?”

“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks. Climate change poses the next big threat. Ignoring it, particularly to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, is a risk we cant afford,” she wrote. 

In the article, she lays out how she thinks the fossil fuel industries had fallen short of addressing the climate crisis and accrued impossible amounts of debt as they continued to expand, often without turning a profit. She argued continuing to fund those industries “undermines urgent efforts to counter surging carbon dioxide and methane emissions, which are bringing us closer to the catastrophe of an unliveably hot planet.”

Not all Republicans consider that line of thinking controversial.

“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change,” said Republican former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. When retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis took office as secretary of defense, he urged the armed forces to battle the effects of global climate change.

Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written testimony addressed to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017. He claimed that, “While Trump downplayed the problem, his Pentagon quietly continued to follow a ‘climate change adaptation roadmap’ to protect against catastrophic storms that put coastal bases at tremendous risk.”

The Republican criticism that addressing these concerns would have serious economic ramifications is serious. In their letter to Biden, Garrity and the other fiscal officers explained that they feared Raskin “would use the supervisory authority as vice-chair for supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank to disrupt the private banking sector, reliable energy supplies, and the U.S. economy.”

To switch to a fully green economy would be an enormous undertaking and might ultimately cost millions of jobs in the fossil fuel sectors. Still, many progressive Democrats fear that the time for politics as usual in confronting the climate issue has ended and demand action.

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Garrity Joins Other State Financial Officers in Opposition to Biden Nominee

Calling her views “out of line with American principles,” Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined with 21 other state fiscal officers from 18 states asking President Joe Biden to abandon his progressive nominee for the Office of Comptroller of the Currency.

“The nominee has repeatedly expressed views that are completely out of line with American economic principles,” Garrity said. “She has said that she wants to ‘end banking as we know it’ – and earlier this year claimed that we should want the natural gas, oil, and coal industries to ‘go bankrupt’ in order to address climate change. It’s clear that she is not the right person to serve as Comptroller of the Currency. If President Biden doesn’t withdraw the nomination, the Senate should reject it.”

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is responsible for chartering, regulating, and supervising all national banks.

In a letter to the president, Garrity and the other fiscal officers wrote they “are opposed to Ms. Omarova because of her radical views and have a deep concern that she would abuse her supervisory power as Comptroller to expand political control over the private banking sector, disrupting the economy. … Omarova’s professed worldview is incompatible with the free market and is therefore disqualifying.”

Saule Omarova

The letter further noted, “We share the general belief that the U.S. Senate should defer to the president on most nominees, but not one who has made such reckless and irresponsible comments regarding the institutions and system she would regulate. We hereby call upon you to withdraw this nomination on the grounds that Omarova’s professed worldview is incompatible with the free market and is therefore disqualifying.

Garrity joined treasurers and other fiscal officers from Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming in calling for Biden to withdraw the nomination.

They are not alone. As Delaware Valley Journal has previously reported, the graduate of Russia’s Moscow State Univerity is opposed by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more radical choice for any regulatory spot in our federal government,” Toomey said. “I know that is a very sweeping statement to make. I think I can stand by it.”

 

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