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Palin Team Opposed Divesting of Holdings to Protest Darfur

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

"When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren't doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur."

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-- Sarah Palin, vice presidential debate, Oct. 2

Sarah Palin suggested that she was at the forefront of a campaign in Alaska to sell stock in companies that do business with Sudan in protest against the mass killing of civilians in the western part of the country. But the record shows that her administration was against the divestiture movement before it was for it.

THE FACTS

The Save Darfur Coalition has been urging states to divest of stocks from companies that do business with Sudan for the last two years, arguing that the investments "help fund genocide." An Alaska saving fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, has about $22 million invested in international trading companies, such as China Petroleum and Alstom of France, that do business with Sudanese oil interests.

Alaska Permanent Fund officials made clear from the outset that they were opposed to any divestiture effort. Executive director Mike Burns told an Anchorage TV station, KTUU, on Dec. 11 that the fund was looking for the "best return" on the investments and never took into account "socially responsible investments . . . whether it's tobacco or alcohol or hospitals that perform abortions or hospitals that don't perform abortions."

Last January, a bill known as HB 287 was introduced into the Alaska House of Representatives to restrict investments in companies that do business with Sudan. During a committee hearing in February, a Palin administration representative, Deputy Revenue Commissioner Brian Andrews, testified against the legislation on the grounds that it would do nothing to help "the afflicted in Sudan" and would add to the fund's administrative costs.

While acknowledging that the legislation was "well intended" and that "the desire to make a difference is noble," Andrews warned that "mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens' financial security is not a good combination."

A co-sponsor of the legislation, Anchorage Democrat Les Gara, said that Palin apparently had a change of heart on the divestiture issue in March. During a brief hallway conversation, she expressed sympathy for his bill. By that time, however, the bill had effectively died in committee.

The change in the Palin administration's position became official in early April when Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin announced that the administration supported a Senate bill on divestment, SB 227, as "a proactive action against genocide in Darfur," saying, "The situation is an ongoing human tragedy, and Alaska has an opportunity to take a stand against those activities." The Senate bill, like the House Bill, went nowhere, as there was no time to take action on it before the legislature wrapped up its business in early April.

THE PINOCCHIO TEST

Sarah Palin is exaggerating her role in leading the Sudan divestiture in Alaska. The legislative record shows that her administration was late in embracing the campaign to sell stock in companies that do business with Sudan, and that it initially opposed the divestiture. The Alaska Permanent Fund still invests in companies blacklisted by the Save Darfur Coalition.

TWO PINOCCHIOS: Significant omissions or exaggerations


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