Calling it “huge step in the right direction,” Gov. Rick Scott got support from two state Cabinet members Wednesday to keep an agency they oversee from conducting future business linked to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
While not as wide-reaching as first proposed by the governor, the resolution approved by the State Board of Administration's trustees --- Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis --- will prohibit the board from investing in certain companies that have financial ties to the Venezuelan regime.
“I've heard first-hand from so many Floridians whose families have been hurt by the brutalities perpetrated by the Maduro regime,” Scott said. “I stand firmly with the Venezuelan people in demanding absolute freedom and democracy now. The policy before you today is a huge step in the right direction.”
The State Board of Administration currently doesn't have any such investments, and Scott's anti-investing outline doesn't impact other state investments.
The State Board of Administration manages investments for such things as the state pension fund. Though he is a member of the Cabinet, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is not a trustee of the State Board of Administration.
Ash Williams, executive director of the State Board of Administration, called Wednesday's decision “prudent and within all of our obligations.”
“If I were to leave tomorrow as chief investment officer and executive director, and whoever took my place took a different view on this, these guidelines would be in place to keep us in the posture we are in today,” Williams said.
Scott hasn't named or targeted any individual companies, but some Democrats have criticized Scott's proposal as not going far enough.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is expected to face a challenge in 2018 from Scott, has said the governor “backtracked” on an initial statement in early July that called for a blanket ban on “doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.”
Also, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, has filed a proposal (SB 70) for the 2018 legislative session that would require the State Board of Administration to divest from companies doing business with Venezuela.
Rodriguez has been critical of Goldman Sachs Asset Management for a purchase --- on behalf of clients through a broker in the secondary market --- of $2.8 billion in bonds of Venezuela's state-run oil company. On Wednesday, he said the state needs to take stronger action due to the deepening crisis in the South American nation.
"I welcome the SBA's initial step and look forward to continuing to work with them on taking concrete steps to support the Venezuelan people during a deepening political and economic crisis of Maduro's making,” Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.
Asked about Rodriguez and Nelson, Scott called out Nelson for engaging in “political posturing.”
“We've actually taken action. We said we're not going to do business with the Maduro regime. I've asked for Maduro to resign,” Scott said. Â “People ought to come together to support a president (President Donald Trump) that's focused on making sure the Maduro regime steps aside along with the Cuban thugs that are helping him.”