Joel Anderson's Iran victory lap: Gov doesn't buy his main rationale
Union Tribune (2007-09-25) Chris Reed
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El Cajon Assemblyman Joel Anderson is enjoying international attention these days, thanks to the governor's decision to sign his bill forcing the state's mammoth pension funds to stop investing in companies that do business with Iran. But a critical distinction needs to be made between the reason the gov signed the bill and the initial rationale that Anderson gave for introducing it.
Arnold sees the measure as a loud declaration that Iran's support of terrorism cannot be tolerated by the world community. Joel, in his initial interview with two members of the U-T editorial board a half-year ago, declared that the measure was crucial to preserve the safety of pension investments. He later reaffirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle that this was his main goal:
Anderson, the bill's sponsor, said he was optimistic that divestment ultimately could lead to broader economic pressure on Iran. And if it does, he said, that would be "icing" to his main purpose: avoiding assets made risky by Iran's policies and postures.
"If we can bring human dignity to this, I'm for it. If we can bring world peace, I'm for it. But at the end of the day, we have a fiduciary responsibility to limit risk," he said. "That's what I'm doing."
This is preposterous. CalPERS and CalSTRS are racking up amazing returns year-in and year-out. Not only are they better judges of relative risk than copy-shop tycoon Anderson and other lawmakers, so are the international firms the pension firms invest in which do some business with Iran.
I am pretty sure the governor agrees. Yesterday, I spoke with Aaron McClear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, and he said that the governor signed the bill as a statement against terrorism -- nothing more.
But none of this matters to Joel Anderson. He's taking his victory lap -- and might be changing his tune. In his triumphal press release yesterday, Anderson's quotes were all about terrorism, not about risk. The mayor of Beverly Hills, of all people, was brought in to make the assertion about the danger facing pensioners if CalPERS and CalSTRS escape micromanagement by the Legislature.
If Joel really thinks that investing in nations that pick fights with the United States is so dangerous that pension fund managers can't be trusted to do what's right by pensioners, I await his Russia and Venezuela disinvestment bills.
Posted by Chris Reed at September 25, 2007 10:26 AM