06.21.17

Rep. Schiff, Colleagues Send Letter to State Senate Urging Passage of Bill Divesting Public Pensions from Turkish Government

Washington, DC – This week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and nine of his Congressional colleagues from California sent a letter to California State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León in support of California Assembly Bill 1597, which would divest California’s public pension funds from investment vehicles that are owned, controlled, or managed by the Turkish government.

“California has acted in the past to prohibit new investments by its pension funds in sectors that are inimical to our state’s values, such as the 2015 state law mandating divestment from coal companies,” the Members wrote in the letter. “The narrowly drafted AB 1597 proposal is an appropriate use of that authority, blocking future investments directly owned by the Turkish Government, such as government bonds.”

Rep. Schiff sent the letter along with Jackie Speier (CA-14), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Jim Costa (CA-16).

“Given the recent assault on peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal security forces, as well as Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, divestment by California is an appropriate response,” the Members wrote.

AB 1597 passed the California State Assembly on June 1st by a vote of 67-0.

 

 

Full text of the letter is below:

 

June 19, 2017

 

The Honorable Kevin de León

California State Senate President Pro Tempore

State Capitol, Room 205

Sacramento, CA 94249

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write to voice our strong support for AB 1597, which would divest California’s public pension funds from investment vehicles that are owned, controlled, or managed by the Turkish government. This legislation passed the Assembly on June 1st by a vote of 67-0. Given the recent assault on peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal security forces, as well as Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, divestment by California is an appropriate response. We hope that the State Senate takes up and passes this legislation as soon as possible.

 

As you are aware, the once dynamic and relatively open Turkish democracy has slid towards authoritarian rule by President Erdogan. With the recent passage, beset by voting irregularities, of a constitutional referendum, Erdogan has amassed dictatorial powers. Turkey has become the world’s leading imprisoner of journalists, suppressed free speech, and has engaged in a brutal campaign to stamp out political dissent.

 

They have recently brought that campaign to the United States. On May 16th, members of Erdogan’s security detail brutally attacked a peaceful protest outside of the Turkish Embassy, causing serious injuries. Videos show Erdogan speaking to his security forces immediately prior to the attack, and observing from a distance as his armed security beat peaceful protestors. The House of Representatives recently passed H. Res. 354 unanimously, condemning this assault and calling on the Administration to hold Turkey responsible and take appropriate actions against those who carried out the attack.

 

Finally, Turkey has engaged in a decades long campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide, expending millions of dollars to lobby against recognition of the historic fact of the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1923. California has been a leader in the United States in speaking frankly about the genocide, serving as a home for tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans whose families survived the genocide to build new lives in the United States.

 

California has acted in the past to prohibit new investments by its pension funds in sectors that are inimical to our state’s values, such as the 2015 state law mandating divestment from coal companies. The narrowly drafted AB 1597 proposal is an appropriate use of that authority, blocking future investments directly owned by the Turkish Government, such as government bonds. The investments make up a small portion of the pension funds’ holdings, and reallocating these resources in an orderly fashion will have no measurable impact on their fiduciary duties.

 

We hope that the Senate acts quickly on AB 1597, and that it can be signed into law as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,