Pro-ESG Chuck Schumer was top recipient of BlackRock donations in 2022
Schumer received more than $100,000 from BlackRock in the 2022 election cycle and has defended ESG investing in Congress
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., this week mounted a vigorous defense of big investment firms' right to consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when evaluating their investment decisions. But a conservative ethics watchdog is calling out the Democratic leader for being the top campaign donation recipient from BlackRock — one of the leading advocates of sustainable investing.
The American Accountability Foundation (AAF), which opposes ESG, slammed Schumer for taking corporate America's side against a Republican-led effort to kill a Biden administration Department of Labor rule that would have encouraged private retirement plan fiduciaries to consider ESG factors when making investment decisions for over 150 million Americans.
The group noted that Schumer was the top recipient of campaign donations from the Wall Street firm in the last election cycle. In 2022, Schumer received a total of $113,950 from BlackRock, including $103,950 from individuals tied to the New York-based international investment firm and $10,000 from its affiliated political action committee, according to OpenSecrets.org.
BlackRock is an unapologetic advocate for ESG, which has come under fire from Republican politicians who have accused corporations of going "woke" by basing investment decisions on climate impact, diversity, or other factors they associate with a liberal agenda.
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"Chuck Schumer's enthusiasm for ESG is no surprise given his tight connections with corporate America, and all the money he's taking from ESG heavyweight BlackRock," said AAF President Tom Jones.
The Senate majority leader led his party in opposition to the disapproval resolution that squashed the Biden administration's Labor Department rule on Wednesday.
"ESG is global corporations' war on the American dream and Schumer has sided with them over the American people," Jones said.
Schumer's office did not respond to a request for comment.
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In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday, and in subsequent remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, Schumer accused GOP lawmakers of adopting an anti-free market position, arguing that investment firms should be permitted to consider ESG factors if they so wish.
"ESG opponents are trying to turn it into a dirty acronym, deploying attacks they have long used for elements of a so-called woke agenda. They call ESG wokeness. They call it a cult. They call it an incursion into free markets," Schumer wrote. "We’ve heard it all before. I say ESG is just common sense."
He argued that ESG is not a matter of "ideological preference," and wrote, "investors and asset managers increasingly recognize that maximizing returns requires looking at the full range of risks to any investment—including the financial risks presented by increasingly volatile natural disasters, aging populations and other threats that the public doesn’t normally associate with financial modeling."
Schumer said that by going after ESG, self-claimed free-market Republicans are "forcing their own views down the throats of every company and investor," rather than letting the market function.
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But conservative groups like AAF view the matter differently. In a recent report on the proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis, AAF researchers contended that ESG policies "threaten corporate competitiveness and erode shareholder value." They cited as examples policies including corporate board diversity quotas, racial/gender equity audits, greenhouse gas emissions targets and disclosures on political spending and non-profit or trade association affiliations.
AAF contends these efforts "promote ideological bullying and encourage activists to shame individuals and companies that support conservative groups and causes."
"Companies like Glass Lewis and BlackRock should be working to maximize shareholder value, not using their power to implement the Democrat Party's agenda," Jones said.
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Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have made the same argument. In his new book, "The Courage to be Free," DeSantis writes that the trend of corporations entering "culture wars" is being driven by left-wing company employees pressuring their executives to reflect their political values and "woke" CEOs using their corporate bully pulpit to exert their influence.
"ESG provides a pretext for CEOs to use shareholder assets to target issues like reducing the use of fossil fuels and restricting Second Amendment rights. It is, in effect, a way for the political left to achieve through corporate power what they cannot achieve at the ballot box," DeSantis wrote.
Fox News' Kelly Laco and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.