DeSantis' attack on Disney is just the tip of the iceberg
Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis picked a culture-war fight with the Walt Disney Co., old-school conservatives worried aloud about the precedent it might set.

It’s a little late for that.

Defying decades of Republican subservience to America’s business elite, the state of Florida has attacked Disney by repealing its “special independent district” status. But it turns out that DeSantis’ move is hardly an isolated example among states in this, the faux-populist era of the GOP.

Modeling after Donald Trump’s mob-like instinct to punish companies that offended him, politicians running red states have begun boycotting corporations to retaliate for policies aimed at protecting the planet. The once-unthinkable notion of Republicans using their government power to attack big business prompted the conservative Washington Examiner to tout its “alternative coverage” on the subject:

“Republican-led states are pushing back against firms that try to curb use of fossil fuels,” the newspaper proclaimed in advance of Earth Day last week. “Pressure has been building on companies to follow environmental, social, and governance standards from both the private sector and the government."

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“Because much of that pressure involves businesses' handling of carbon emissions and the fossil fuel industry, policymakers in some oil- and coal-heavy states are actively working against major investors and businesses.”

There’s no better example than West Virginia, where Treasurer Riley Moore has used his office to punish companies for the sin of trying to decarbonize their investments. Moore, the grandson of the state’s late Gov. Arch Moore and nephew of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, has boldly planted the flag against environmentalism.

“Earth Day should celebrate coal, oil, and natural gas instead of condemning the natural resources God has blessed us with,” Moore tweeted last week.

It’s no surprise, then, that Riley has led the charge against anti-polluters. Here’s more from the Examiner:

“Last year, in response to pressure from the Biden administration for big banks to cut down on their emissions, more than a dozen state treasurers, led by Moore, wrote to presidential climate envoy John Kerry suggesting that they would pull state assets from firms that are trying to decarbonize their investments.

In the letter, the treasurers urged banks and financial institutions “not to give in to pressure from the Biden Administration to refuse to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies.”

The trend is not limited to West Virginia. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law last year banning state investments in businesses that cut ties with the oil and gas industry.” As industry magazine reported, “Boycott Texas oil, and Texas will boycott you.”

But like West Virginia, Texas has gone beyond defending its industries to launch a broadside attack on companies advocating for green policies. Indeed, both states have made targeted investment giant BlackRock for advancing the use of Environmental Social and Governance criteria (ESG).

BlackRock, a massive $10 trillion investment firm, has led the corporate world in the prioritization of ESG,” the Examiner reported. Part of the push has been the encouragement of ‘net zero’ investment strategies, which Moore contends would hurt the fossil fuel industry and, ultimately, residents of the Mountain State who make a living in that industry.

“Moore took action against BlackRock this year, (announcing) that the state would end the use of one of the firm’s investment funds. He said the inflows and outflows of that fund were about $1.5 billion.”

Moore termed it a “conflict of interest for West Virginia to do business with BlackRock -- particularly as it relates to their stance on the fossil fuel industry” -- since West Virginia ranks fifth nationally in energy production.

As NPR reported last month, “the goal of pushing companies to a more fossil fuel friendly position – at least publicly – appears to be working."

BlackRock representatives have met with Texas state leaders trying to smooth things over, and highlighting their fossil fuel investments. CEO Fink also wrote a letter this year flatly stating that the firm does not pursue fossil fuel divestment.

"You can already see that they [BlackRock] have now written back to the state and said, 'Hey, hey, hey, don't worry, we love you guys,'" says Amalgamated Bank's Ivan Frishberg. "'We're open for business. Bring us your oil and gas!'"