Another state Constitutional Officer calls out the ESG industry

John Murante is Nebraska's State Treasurer. He's spoken publicly about how Blackrock and others are not just attacking the energy industry, but attacking our food producers as well

I recently talked with John, on my podcast "Meeting of Minds" and he talked about how politicized investing hurts farmers, and also empowers tyrants, and how it functions as a kind of secular religion. Below are a few highlights from that discussion, lightly edited for clarity and length.

One of the things that I have been delighted to see have been these constitutional officers, sometimes called row officers, be good financial stewards. They don't normally get a lot of attention, they're not considered sexy offices. The people in these offices want to get the debits and credits right, they want to do the due diligence. That's part of finance: detail work. And then they find themselves in an onslaught or politicization of capital. They didn't enter these offices to fight, they're just trying to do the accounting, and suddenly they're under this pressure. They're being ranked negatively by S&P on political grounds, they have these Environmental Social Government restrictions pushed down on them.

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I'd include you in this list, along with Marlo Oaks and Allison Ball. And you all said, wait a minute, we have an obligation to the taxpayers of our state, to the pension holders of our state, to advocate for their good. And that means fighting against the politicization of capital.

John: I think that's accurate. It happened very quickly. I was first elected as State Treasurer four years ago, and during that campaign the term 'ESG' didn't come up even a single time. I didn't get a single question about it from any voter out there. There were no candidate surveys asking me what my position on the subject was.

If you'd asked me at the time what ESG investing was, I probably would have said that it's a way of investing for left-leaning individuals who want to kind of think of themselves as socially conscious and socially aware. That's how they choose to invest their own money.

It wasn't until the Biden Administration took office where we started seeing immense amounts of pressure about this. Being put on financial institutions to to get those financial institutions to not lend to American Energy, coal, oil and natural gas. And deprive those companies of access to Capital.

And it was really my colleague Riley Moore, the State Treasurer of West Virginia, who became the first State Treasurer to start calling up his colleagues from around the country, and said "hey, we've got financial institutions that are working hand-in-glove, whether they want to or not, with the Biden administration, to bankrupt the biggest industry in my state. We all need to stand together on this one." And a group called The State Financial Officers Foundation, which is a group of free market, limited-government-minded State Treasurers and Auditors from around the country, got together and really started talking about the way that capital is being politicized, and what we're going to do about it. Because it's not a matter of, wealthy left-leaning individual spending their own money or investing their own money, how they see fit...

Jerry:'s other people's money!

John: It's other people's money. Other people's money being politicized and weaponized. And that's where we have to take some action. I think of it as us forming a NATO-like alliance of states, where an attack on one of our state's economies is an attack on all of them. If you go after West Virginia's coal, we assume you're coming for Nebraska's cows and corn next.

Jerry: And they are! Because almost every proposal I've seen on the ballot for the past two years that is addressing climate change has been pushing for Scope 3 Emissions accounting. What does that mean? It doesn't mean just punishing you for burning coal, for using fossil fuels. It also means punishing financial companies if their clients are doing that. They want you to track both upstream and downstream in the supply change. So you're not just responsible for your carbon emissions, you're responsible for your customers' carbon emissions. And a lot of energy use goes downstream into agriculture. Scope 3 is pulling agriculture into it, and threatening food security.

John: That's absolutely correct. And what we've seen in Europe and Sri Lanka is some of these ESG policies being passed legislatively. There are governments who are going all-in on the idea that we can continue to grow food without fertilizer, and water for that matter, and that animal agriculture should just be done with. And as ridiculous as it sounds, when people like Bill Gates come out and say we need to transition away from eating steak and transition to eating insects, as asinine is that sounds to normal people, they're serious about it. They really think that is what it's going to take to solve climate change and to save the Earth. And as a Nebraskan, I think you will find fewer people on Earth who care more about the environment and are better stewards of the land than farmers and ranchers. To hear people like Bill Gates make such ridiculous statements about farming and ranching and, and the theoretical harm that it's doing to the environment, while they fly on their private jets to Davos to talk about climate change and saving the's maddening.

Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”

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