Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized ESG investing and companies including PayPal Holdings Inc., saying he would work with the state legislature to battle what he called a “woke ideology” being promoted by Wall Street banks, asset managers and big tech companies.
“Do we govern ourselves through our constitution and through our elections or do we have these masters of the universe occupying these commanding heights of society?” DeSantis said at a press briefing Wednesday. “For every master of the universe who’s prattling on about, you know, no emissions and all this stuff, I don’t see very many of them giving up their private jets.”
DeSantis, who is increasingly being viewed as a possible Republican presidential contender, has embraced a number of culture-war issues popular with his base. Earlier this year he signed a law to strip Walt Disney Co. of its self-governance privileges in the state after it criticized a law he backed that limits school instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Speaking in front of a banner that said “Government of Laws, Not Woke CEOs,” he slammed ESG — environmental, social and governance — asset managers and banks for actions he said made the country more dependent on foreign energy, and moves to disfavor certain industries like gun manufacturing.
DeSantis said he would be taking administrative action so that the State Board of Administration, which manages Florida’s pension funds, won’t be able to use “political factors” when making investment decisions that instead must focus only on “maximizing the return on investment.” Banks, credit card companies and money transmitters including PayPal would be prohibited from discriminating against customers for their religious, political and social beliefs.
“They’re using things like social credit scores to be able to marginalize people that they don’t like,” DeSantis said, also mentioning crowdfunding site GoFundMe and the trucker protests in Canada earlier this year.
DeSantis said the payment processor PayPal had “cut off people that they basically disagree with.” Tina Descovich, co-founder of Florida-based nonprofit Moms for Liberty, which seeks to combat “gender ideology” in schools, said the group’s PayPal account had been frozen after over $100,000 in donations had been received in a three-day period in April.
“It brought our organization to a screeching halt,” she said at the briefing. “We were paralyzed for weeks.”
PayPal, based in San Jose, California, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
“We’re also going to make very clear that discrimination, particularly in the financial sector, is not something that we want to see here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said, suggesting that other states including Texas, Arizona and Tennessee could work together as a bloc.