President Barack Obama’s pending deal with Iran is “a direct assault on Florida’s divestment from state-sponsored terror,” said Jeff Atwater, Florida’s chief financial officer and one of the three trustees of the $172 billion Florida State Board of Administration, Tallahassee.
Mr. Atwater made the comment in a letter to state legislative leaders, expressing concern the pending Iran deal could undermine the state’s existing divestment over concerns about terrorism.
The “agreement itself exposes this administration’s plans to use ‘all available authorities’ to force states to follow them down this reckless path,” Mr. Atwater said in a statement about his letter.
A Florida statute, enacted in 2007, requires the FSBA to divest companies with activities in the Iran petroleum energy sector if they fail to respond to FSBA concerns about their operations. The law also applies to Sudan.
“Since the law’s passage, our State Board of Administration has divested more than $1.1 billion from companies involved with Iran,” Mr. Atwater said in the statement. Dennis D. MacKee, FSBA communications director, confirmed the amount.
The pending Iran deal, if approved, “encroaches” on Florida’s rights, said Ashley Carr, Mr. Atwater’s spokeswoman.
In his letter, Mr. Atwater calls on the state legislative leaders to take action necessary to offset the U.S.-Iran deal.
“As a trustee of our state’s investment, I call on you to ensure the ability to direct Florida investments away from the world’s foremost terror-supporting regime,” Mr. Atwater wrote. “We must defend the authority of the bipartisan (Florida) Iran divestment bill that passed both chambers unanimously.” To preserve Florida’s “rights as a sovereign state”, he urged the legislative leaders to look into “every possible option, be it statutory revision or (state) constitutional amendment, and urgently act to preserve and protect our divestment policies. … We cannot be forced to fund terrorism.”
The Florida statute contains sections that would require an end to divestment and allow investment in the affected companies, including conditions under which Congress or the president can affirm through “legislation, executive order, or written certification … that mandatory divestment … interferes with the conduct of United States foreign policy,” or that the “United States revokes all sanctions imposed against the government of Iran.”
“A state can invest funds — or not invest funds — where it chooses,” Mr. Atwater said in the statement. “It is a matter of states’ rights.”
Spokesmen for Gov. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi, state attorney general, who are the other two FSBA trustees, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The FSBA executive staff has no position on the issue, Mr. MacKee said, adding, “We are staff. We follow statutes and guidance from our trustees.”