A consortium of 30 state politicians penned a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday morning, requesting that he add the divestment of Russian assets to the agenda for the upcoming Special Session.
According to the House of Representatives’ most recent financial report, the state has over $300 million of the Florida Retirement system funds invested in Russia, including $117 million in companies sanctioned by the federal government. Lawmakers included in the letter, such as Sen. Shevrin Jones, Rep. Dan Daley, and Rep. Allison Tant, among others, claim that Florida’s position is helping prop up the Russian economy in a period of fiscal depression.
It has been noted, however, by the Office of the Governor, that a simple divestment has not been possible since February 25, when the Russian government enacted strict capital control.
The way in which the sale of Russian equities on the Moscow Stock Exchange would be conducted is unclear, as Putin’s government is not currently permitting foreign investors to do so.
Upon contacting the office of Rep. Andrew Learned, the leading author of the letter, the Representative will speak to The Capitolist on Monday to discuss a plan moving forward.
“Our bureaucracy has a fiduciary responsibility to chase value, which means they could, without our knowledge, pump more of Florida’s money into Russia looking for cheap investments,” reads the letter. “But our responsibility is to the Constitution, and to that end we must stand for our values and freedom itself and not invest further in the Russian economy.”
Florida has divested various national economies in the past, including those of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and Sudan.
Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried called for similar action in February, urging the three other members of Florida’s Cabinet — DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody — to divest from Russian-backed entities within the state.
The Sunshine State, and the Miami region, in particular, is well-known to be a hub for foreign Russian investment sectors like real estate and finance. Fried urged that the Cabinet prevent Florida’s financial activity from, directly or indirectly, aiding Russia as it wages unprovoked war against Ukraine.
Fried additionally sought to review state purchases and investments, including investments with any company or institution that is on a list of Russian headquartered entities.
Divestment from the Russian economy has taken place in both Republican and Democrat-led states across the country. Several states including New York and Colorado have already taken action similar to what Fried recommended.
A University of South Florida public research poll found that 86 percent of Floridians support the effort to divest.
While residents of The Sunshine State may back a shift in investment strategy, Florida’s fiscal leaders are a bit apprehensive to undertake sweeping economic change.
“There is a flurry of action by the federal government taking place with respect to Ukraine and the SBA is keeping the Trustees updated on how sanctions against Russia may affect any investments. The CFO believes that Putin is an evil dictator and that he will reap what he sows,” said Frank Collins III of Patronis’ office told The Capitolist following Fried’s recommendation. “The CFO also believes that when buildings are being bombed, families are being killed, the international geopolitical order is being disrupted, and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our very eyes, now may not be the right time for clever hot takes.”