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US Vice-Presidents debate renews question of Alaska divestment

October 4, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – After the US vice-presidental debate Thursday Alaska politicians questioned Governor Sarah Palin’s claim that she helped lead Alaska’s attempted divestment from Sudan.

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
Palin is running for vice-president with candidate John McCain, the Republican party nominee for president.

A divestment campaign from companies that have financial dealings with Sudan has been launched in different parts of the world particularly in the US.

Last December US president George Bush signed into a law a bill overwhelmingly endorsed by the Congress to support divestment activities in Sudan.

Palin said that “when I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation.”

The governor called for divestment from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is about $40 billion, according to Palin, but now the amount now is closer to $32.8 billion, according to the corporation that manages the money. The fund was established in 1976 with money from Alaska’s oil resources.

However a politician in Alaska who originally supported the plan to divest said that the Palin administration was responsible for blocking the bill.

Democrat Les Gara said Palin joined the Republican majority in the legislature in opposing the bill at a Feb. 9 hearing that killed the bill. In late March the governor changed her position after a conversation with Gara, “but by that time the bill was dead” Gara told Alaskan and national press.

The bill will be considered again next year, this time with Sarah Palin’s support.

During the debate on Thursday Palin said she supported the legislation “to make sure we weren’t doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That legislation hasn’t passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world.”

The sponsors of the bill said when it was introduced, “there are few things an individual state can do to end genocide. Targeted Divestment is one promising strategy to do just that: Pressure the Sudanese government to end it’s genocide in Darfur.”

“The State of Alaska can do this with slim to no impact on the fund manager’s wise investment mandate to invest principal while maximizing total return. Alaska has very little invested in Sudan, about 36 million (dollars), or 0.1% of total assets and it’s important to note that none of the targeted businesses currently operating in Sudan are American.”

Opponents of the bill noted that the Alaskan fund has never used socially-guided investment principals and doubted that divestment would help the people of Darfur.

(ST)

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