The idea that investments from Idaho’s state retirement fund are helping support genocide in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region is so repugnant to many members of the state’s 118,000-member retirement system that they’ve been calling for change. As a result, PERSI is setting up a new 401(k) plan option, starting Oct. 12, that will be free of those controversial investments into companies providing economic or military aid to the Sudanese government. But that would affect just a tiny portion of state retirement investments; the state’s huge, $11.5 billion retirement fund had $25.7 million invested in such companies as of July.
Last year, backers of divestment pressed the Idaho Legislature to require PERSI to withdraw from those investments, but a Senate committee declined to introduce the bill, referring the matter instead to the PERSI board. Then, after a six-month study, the PERSI board concluded it couldn't make any such changes in its investments without legislative direction. Now, a coalition of church, human rights and community groups is launching a push for legislation to require divestment, matching moves in 20 other states. Read my full story here.