Brandon Patty: Local taxpayer dollars should not invest in companies supporting the BDS movement

Ben & Jerry's
Millions of taxpayer dollars could be inadvertently invested in companies on the Scrutinized List. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ leadership in placing Unilever on Florida’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel is now having real-world consequences to the brand.

As of Oct. 26, the State Board of Administration will no longer invest in Unilever due to its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

However, Florida law still allows local governments to continue to invest in Unilever and other companies that participate in the BDS movement.

The BDS movement, formed in 2005, is the latest misguided attempt to attack and destroy Israel. Coordinating the movement is the Palestinian BDS National Committee, which uses lofty language of seeking “freedom, justice and equality” for Palestinians to justify the BDS movement.

Yet, instead of holding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority accountable for their leadership failures, the Palestinian BDS National Committee seeks to blame Israel and its people.

This is an old straw man tactic. Leaders like DeSantis see through the fallacy and are willing to stand firm against the discriminatory movement.

As the accountant and custodian of county funds, Florida court clerks and comptrollers manage the investments of available or surplus funds in their respective counties by following Florida Statute 218.415, Local Government Investment Policies. This statute does not mention the Florida List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel, which could lead to taxpayer dollars being invested in companies on this list.

Here in St. Johns County, we have $370,575 invested in Unilever. Spread across the state, millions of taxpayer dollars could be inadvertently invested in companies on the Scrutinized List.

The good news is that St. Johns County has addressed this issue with the recent approval of a revised investment policy incorporating this list.

Further, St. Johns County doubled down by declaring Nov. 8 “St. Johns County-Israel Friendship Day,” to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel and our Jewish neighbors in promoting freedom, human rights and security.

Placing Unilever on the Scrutinized List is a great step forward for Florida to help defend our friend and ally Israel. In addition, amending Chapter 218.415 would send a clear message to companies that our taxpayer dollars at all levels will not support discriminatory policies counter to our American values.

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Brandon Patty is clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for St. Johns County.

Last updated on November 5, 2021

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