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Idaho House unanimously calls for the state to dump its Russian investments

Rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Endowment fund board has already sold off investments in Russian currency, government bonds

The Idaho House of Representatives delivered a pair of unanimous, bipartisan votes Tuesday afternoon encouraging the state to dump investments in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, and Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, teamed up to bring the two measures forward.

The first, House Concurrent Resolution 41, called for the Idaho Endowment Fund investment board “to make a good faith effort to immediately sell, trade, or otherwise completely divest itself of any asset of Russian currency.”

The resolution goes on to call on the investment board to make a good faith effort to sell or trade any other investment in a Russia government asset. Finally, it calls on the investment board to review and disclose its investments in companies housed in Russia or in any companies that significantly use Russian materials or sell Russian products.

Gannon told legislators the executive director of the endowment fund told him and Skaug the board has already sold off investments in Russian currency and government bonds.

“This ruble investment and the bond investment was sold late last week,” Gannon said. “It‘s gone. Dump it, dump Russia.”

The Idaho Legislature used the resolution to condemn the conduct of the Russian government, which it calls out for “an unprovoked and unjustified attack and military assault upon the country of Ukraine.”

The second measure was House Bill 728. That bill calls on the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, often referred to as PERSI, to sell, trade or dispose of Russian currency investments or investments in Russian government assets.

“This bill is saying to one of our funds, ‘Dump your investment in the Russian government and dump your rubles and dump Russia at the same time,’” Gannon said.

In a March 3 statement posted to their website, PERSI leaders said they too have begun the process of dumping Russian investments.

“In close consultation with Gov. Brad Little PERSI has commenced disposition of all liquid assets connected to Russia in an expedited manner consistent with its statutory fiduciary duty,” the statement read. “Illiquid investments, which are minor in nature, will be monitored for opportunities for expeditious disposition.”

Gannon said PERSI has about $3.5 billion invested in foreign currencies, mostly the euro and Japanese yen.

Both measures head next to the Idaho Senate for consideration.

This is the latest example of Idaho political leaders and state officials condemning or calling for sanctions against Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

During speeches on the Idaho House and Idaho Senate floor Feb. 23, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, promised to unleash “crippling sanctions” on Russia if President Valdimir Putin and Russia continued to push into Ukraine.

On Feb. 28, Idaho Public Television’s Idaho Reports blogreported that the Idaho State Liquor Division is removing Russian-owned vodka from state liquor stores.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.