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'Our issue is with politicizing a pension,' says one Oklahoma nonprofit

Alex Gonzalez

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(Oklahoma News Service) An Oklahoma pensioner has taken the state to court and filed a motion for a temporary injunction over a state law some said targets financial firms for their climate change policies, in turn harming public pension funds.

In 2022, the state passed the Oklahoma's Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, which prohibits public retirement systems from investing with financial companies accused of boycotting the fossil fuel industry.

Tony DeSha, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, which represents thousands of state employees, said they support the lawsuit filed by former state employee Don Keenan. DeSha emphasized for him, the issue boils down to the politicization of pensions.

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"This pensioner's money is not taxpayer money," DeSha explained. "It is not money that is coming from the state. It is money that our members have earned and paid into for years."

DeSha noted the ultimate goal would be to get the law declared unconstitutional, but proponents of the law argued its intent is to protect Oklahomans and the state's economic base. The lawsuit filed last year argued the legislation is unconstitutionally vague and violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

DeSha pointed out while the lawsuit stems from a response to the state's Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, he argued his organization is not wanting to promote what is known as ESG legislation, which stands for "environmental, social and governance," policies companies use to make financial investment decisions.

"We have no issue with the anti-ESG stuff," DeSha stressed. "We have no issue with any of that. Our issue is with politicizing a pension. We don't want anyone's politics, we don't want anyone's pension being used for a partisan message or a policy message."

DeSha added he is confident the temporary injunction will be granted but acknowledged he is concerned stalling tactics may be used to prolong the legal process.