Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rep. Maher and Rep. Shapiro Spar Over Investment Changes

One state lawmaker wants to divest state-held funds invested in so-called “terror holdings” but another member is questioning his ethics. Representative Josh Shapiro is a member of the Tobacco Settlement Investment Board and he has introduced a resolution calling on that fund to not invest in “foreign companies that help terrorist-sponsoring nations.” Shapiro says that could be $1-2 million. State Representative John Maher of Upper St. Clair is also a member of the board. He says he does not disagree with the ideals of such a measure but he does take exception with the way it is being proposed and the way it would be implemented. The fund invests and spends the money received from the national tobacco settlement. Maher says the fund has just three full time employees and they would be unable to determine which companies should be shunned and which would be acceptable. He says there is no government agency that publishes such a list but there is a private firm by the name of Conflict Securities Advisory Group that provides such a service and he hints that Shapiro may be looking to help that firm more than he is looking to make a social statement. Maher says right now the roll of the board is to make sure the money is spent on health-related endeavors and invested wisely. He says if his fellow lawmaker wants to change the focus of the fund to include a social or political agenda he can do that legislatively. Shapiro introduced a measure last year that would have divested two state-managed retirement funds from sponsors of terror but it was defeated in the lower chamber. Maher went on to question Shapiro’s ethics, noting that he voted to allow “lobbyist firms to pay legislators.” He says Shapiro has “gone wild.”

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