Republican state treasurers working to undermine climate action: NY Times

August 8, 2022

Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers have worked to undermine climate action at the state and federal level, according to a New York Times investigation.

A review of more than 10,000 documents, including internal emails and documents obtained through public records requests, revealed the state treasurer members of a group called the State Financial Officers Foundation used the tax dollars they controlled to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lobbied against federal climate regulations and nominees who would carry them out.

“Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies,” wrote David Gelles, the reporter who carried out the investigation.

Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell is listed as a member of the SFOF, but it’s unclear whether Mitchell is participating in the climate action opposition. The Indiana Environmental Reporter has reached out to Mitchell, but she has not yet responded.

The investigation also revealed the SFOF’s national strategy was shaped with the help of right-wing groups with fossil fuel ties, including the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the American Petroleum Institute.

As part of their strategy, the state treasurers have also targeted financial institutions that have cut ties with fossil fuel companies or are perceived to have done so.

West Virginia state treasurer Riley Moore barred several major banks, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo, from getting government contracts with the state. The state treasurers of Louisiana, Arkansas, Utah and Idaho have also pulled money out of firms they believe are too focused on environmental issues or threatened to do so.

States like Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas have passed laws to cut ties with financial institutions that divest themselves of fossil fuels.

Similar legislation failed in the Indiana General Assembly during its 2022 session, when Rep. Ethan Manning introduced House Bill 1224, which would have prohibited state agencies from investing in or entering into contracts with companies that “boycott” fossil fuels.

The bill was nearly identical to “model legislation” written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group funded by the fossil fuel industry to write legislation that furthers right-wing goals. The legislation is provided to state and federal legislators at national conferences.

When presenting the legislation, Manning denied ever attending an ALEC conference, but dozens of Indiana lawmakers have been linked to the organization.

Current Indiana Sens. Linda Rogers and Jim Buck and Rep. Heath VanNatter are state chairs for ALEC. The SFOF also has ties to ALEC, as ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson serves on the SFOF’s board of directors.

Manning eventually withdrew the bill after the Indiana Bankers Association opposed it, calling it an “anti-free market bill.”

You can read the New York Times investigation here.

Republican state treasurers working to undermine climate action: NY Times