After targeting Critical Race Theory, Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking the fight against “woke” corporations to ESG.
Speaking at a restaurant in Tampa on Wednesday, DeSantis and House Speaker-designate Paul Renner proposed legislation to curb “woke capital” and environmental, social and governance criteria, a set of standards — commonly called ESG — used by socially conscious investors to rate companies’ values.
The Governor’s proposal, announced months ahead of the 2023 Session but as the 2022 Midterms heat up, would prohibit the State Board of Administration (SBA) pension fund managers from using political criteria when investing state money. The SBA could only consider maximizing return on investment for retirees when determining investments.
The measure also would limit private companies. It would prohibit Wall Street banks, credit card companies and money transmitters like PayPal from discriminating against customers for their religious, political or social beliefs.
“They’re using things like social credit scores to be able to marginalize people that they don’t like,” DeSantis said, referencing China’s state Social Credit System, which the Chinese Communist Party says it is using to improve public behavior.
Florida began its campaign against “woke” corporations ahead of the 2022 Session. This year, the Legislature passed and DeSantis signed what he calls the “Stop WOKE Act” to combat CRT. The law, which is being challenged in courts, prohibits classroom lessons and corporate training from telling people they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin.
Politicizing the economy benefits the largest corporations and hurts small and medium-sized businesses, “crushing the little guy,” DeSantis argued.
“For every master of the universe who’s prattling on about, you know, no emissions and all this stuff, I don’t see very many of them giving up their private jets,” he continued. “They’re living their own life, and they want the burden of their policies to fall on working-class Americans.”
DeSantis accused Wall Street of “colluding” to bar investment in drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That hurts national security by preventing the country from being energy independent and impacts everyday Americans at the pump, he continued.
He also called out financial institutions for blacklisting The GEO Group, a private prison corporation headquartered in Boca Raton.
“Those activists cannot implement those policies through the ballot box. People don’t want to abolish prisons, people don’t want to abolish ICE, people don’t want to defund law enforcement, and so they try to do it through the backdoor by basically kneecapping some of these companies,” DeSantis said.
Businesses like PayPal and GoFundMe have cut off activists, companies and users for their political views, such as the Canadian truckers’ Freedom Convoy against vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, he criticized politically inspired investments into the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which has purchased a $6 million home in Southern California.
“Have you seen how many mansions some of these people are now living in?” DeSantis said. “That was a total fraud, and a lot of these companies pumped a lot of money into that.”
Renner, a Palm Coast Republican in line to lead the House during the 2022-24 term after the November election, said the “global elite” are weaponizing American capitalism against Floridians by pursuing a “woke agenda.”
“We have a Governor who has the courage to fight, and the Legislature will be joining him in that fight to make sure we push back on behalf of people,” Renner said. “This is a pocketbook issue, and we will not relent until we start dismantling this dangerous form of ESG.”
The proposal was met with praise from Evan Power, the Chair of Chairs for the Republican Party of Florida.
“ESG social credit scores are a real danger that creates the opportunities for discrimination on a political or religious basis,” he said. “I appreciate Governor DeSantis and Speaker Renner taking proactive action to these potential problems so that Floridians can continue to enjoy their freedoms, even in the face of potentially woke corporations attempting to impose their will.”
DeSantis announced the proposal as the Florida gubernatorial campaign is beginning to heat up. Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried hope to deny DeSantis a second term, but the Republican Governor has consistently led both candidates in polling and fundraising.
“When we go and vote this year, we have a Governor who is out fighting for people, who was concerned about the affordability issues that we all face now with Biden’s inflation, and we go out and we campaign and we win the vote,” Renner said.