New York lawmakers are demanding the state and city review pension fund investments in key companies whose executives have funded Republican lawmakers who tried to block the certification of the national election.
Their request cites the Daily Poster’s reporting on the links between pension funds and the major financiers of groups that support the GOP lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College results and egged on the insurrection at the US Capitol.
The New York legislators’ demands come as a coalition of grassroots groups is launching a nationwide campaign to pressure public officials to review how much of the nation’s $5 trillion public pension system is subsidizing the far-right movement in America.
According to the January 11 letter from Democratic state assembly members Ron Kim and Zohran Mamdani, the New York City and New York state public employee pension funds have over $978 million and about $3.3 billion in funds linked to the Blackstone Group, respectively.
Last election cycle, the private equity firm’s CEO Steve Schwarzman donated $35 million to the Senate GOP’s super PAC, $2.5 million to the House GOP’s super PAC, $3 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, and $325,600 to the congressional Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results.
After the election, the Financial Times reported that in a meeting with corporate executives, Schwarzman “took issue with suggestions made during the meeting that the U.S. could be on the verge of a coup… saying the president was within his rights to challenge election results.”
The lawmakers asked the state and city comptroller offices to “conduct a thorough analysis of public money that is invested in entities engaging in anti-democratic activities,” analyze the potential financial harms to Blackstone that may follow the Capitol insurrection, and pressure the company to disclose all of its political contributions and activities.
A spokesperson for New York state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told the Daily Poster in an email: “Comptroller DiNapoli proudly served as an elector for President-elect Biden and strongly disagrees with Mr. Schwarzman’s views on President Trump, but the fund does not, and will not, make investment decisions based on political viewpoints.”
New York City comptroller Scott Stringer’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“Blackstone has never had a corporate PAC or made corporate donations to political candidates,” a Blackstone spokesperson told the Daily Poster in an email. “Of the 130 Blackstone employees who gave to a presidential candidate 97 percent gave to Biden.”
That might be true, but Schwarzman’s $3 million donation to America First Action, a super PAC that backed Trump, was bigger than the money that the rest of the firm executives donated to Biden and groups supporting him. Overall, company executives donated $52 million last cycle — the tenth highest source of cash in all federal elections — and nearly 90 percent of the money went to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.
The two New York assembly members aren’t the only ones demanding that public pension funds review their investments in Blackstone. Last week, Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella told the Daily Poster: “Wall Street executives like Stephen Schwarzman have spent their careers enriching themselves at the expense of our public pensions, and need to be held accountable for funding the machinery that resulted in the violent insurrection on January 6th.”
Pennsylvania’s public school employee pension fund has paid over $300 million worth of fees to Blackstone for managing its investments.
On Thursday, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), an advocacy group focused on racism and Wall Street accountability, sent letters to thirty of the nation’s largest pension funds, including New York city and state, demanding they “publicly pledge not to do future business with the Blackstone Group and Fidelity for their role in enabling the insurrection in Washington, DC on January 6th,” until certain demands are met.
ACRE demanded Schwarzman “suspend all campaign contributions to the Republican Party, its associated entities, and all Republican candidates until every Republican member of Congress who incited, enabled, or supported the insurrection or voted against certifying all of the electoral votes from the 2020 Presidential election is removed from office.” They also called on Fidelity to “ban its donor-advised funds from making donations to hate groups.”
Saqib Bhatti, co-executive director at ACRE, called the comment from DiNapoli’s office “cowardly.”
“We are not talking about political decisions, we are talking about an attack on the democratic process itself,” Bhatti told the Daily Poster. “If the price of a high return on an investment is democracy itself, that is not a worthwhile tradeoff.”
Moreover, Bhatti said, pension fund managers have a responsibility to their retirees — a “fiduciary responsibility” — not simply to maximize their returns, but to make investment decisions that are in their best interest.
“Living in a democracy is certainly important to the interests of public sector workers,” Bhatti said.