Apparently unable to find honest employment after his Failed with a capital F gubernatorial campaign, former Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has hopped aboard the think tank gravy train that will undoubtedly pad his wallet nicely while simultaneously providing him with a plethora of opportunities to hit the links in his early retirement.
It was announced this week that Cameron will become the chief executive officer of some bogus outfit called the 1792 Exchange, which appears to be ramping up against all things “woke,” whatever the hell that means.
This tremendous and heavy responsibility, presumably, won’t keep him from running for the Senate in 2026 if, as speculated, his one-time mentor, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, opts against seeking an eighth term. Cameron vowed to fight for the American Way,™ which in this instance means making sure the fat cats signing his paycheck can continue to plunder society to their hearts’ content.
“We will shine a bright light on those whose ideological agendas seek to dismantle American freedom and prosperity,” Cameron promised in a PR statement announcing his appointment. “We will stop investment management firms, elected officials, and corporate interests from using other people’s money to advance their radical political agendas.”
According to the group’s website, the mission of the 1792 Exchange – so named in honor of the founding of the stock exchange that year — “is to develop policy and resources to protect and equip non-profits, small businesses, and philanthropy from ‘woke’ corporations, to educate Congress and stakeholder organizations about the dangers of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) policies, and to help steer public companies in the United States back to neutral on ideological issues so they can best serve their shareholders and customers with excellence and integrity.”
Now, just why corporate boardrooms across the USA that have expended zillions of dollars over the decades filling campaign coffers to promote their own “ideological issues” need saving from ESG is certainly open to discussion.
It appears that, in the view of the 1792 Exchange and, therefore, Cameron, the boogeyman threatening American prosperity is a relatively new movement known as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, which essentially ferrets out corporations that refuse to contribute to global climate change and treats LGBTQ+ folks as an asset worth investing in.
Sounds simple. Given the choice between throwing dough at a solar panel producer or some strip mine outfit, ESG investing would turn to the former. If one bakery is willing to provide a wedding cake to a gay couple’s nuptials while another is not, the investment would undoubtedly go with the gay friendly outfit.
ESG is offered as an alternative to traditional investing. Individual investors, retirement funds and the like are in no way required to toss their money into them. Regardless, ESG appears to be growing in popularity. PwC, a business advisory group, predicts that ESG assets will hit $33 trillion by 2026, amounting to about 21.5 percent of all managed assets.
Consistent with tradition, Republicans get the vapors anytime the environment is mentioned and take to their bed like Greta Garbo in Camille whenever the subject of diversity is broached. The growing popularity of ESG has placed the practice in the crosshairs of the rightwing and MAGA community. Taken to its logical conclusion, fewer investments will be made in coal-fired power plants, gun manufacturing, oil companies, and similar groups that don’t meet ESG criteria, a potentiality that has instilled fear within the GOP community that the concept just might have legs.
The Kentucky General Assembly, that sentinel of clear thinking and bastion of discernment, always in the forefront of obstructing anything that might prove beneficial to society, passed a law last year – signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, by the way – prohibiting asset managers handling the state’s retirement systems from considering ESG when making investments.
Our boy Andy has displayed a lot of attributes during his four years in office but he’s no John Muir when it comes to the environment.
Meanwhile, here in Washington, Republicans, who control the House by a slim margin, have tried to hit the brakes on ESG despite their constant caterwauling about freedom, liberty, and permitting you to do whatever it is you want with your own money, insisting investment firms should only be interested in raking in cash for their investors, even if, apparently, those investors would rather sidle up to an ESG investment program.
That issue came to something of a head earlier this year. Former President Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, turned thumbs down on ESG during his tenure, citing the Early Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which prohibited the sacrifice of potential investment returns in favor of other considerations. President Biden loosened those rules, thus allowing retirement plan managers to consider ESG when making investments.
That drew a lawsuit from 25 state attorneys general – including Cameron – objecting to the changed rule. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes claimed that the Biden administration was “promoting its climate change agenda by putting everyday people’s retirement money at risk.”
In October, a federal judge in Texas upheld the Biden rule. The attorneys general group announced plans to appeal.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting – at least politically speaking.
Legislation was introduced in the House in late 2022, titled the Ensuring Sound Guidance Act, seeking to repeal the Biden rule. It passed the Republican-led House in early 2023 and then the Senate when two coal state Democrats – Sen. John Tester, of Montana, and Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia – voted to give it the heave-ho. It ultimately failed to become law as the result of Biden’s first presidential veto.
And who introduced that congressionally-passed piece of ... legislation? Why, our old pal, Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington), no doubt attuned to the needs of the region’s once powerful coal industry which now seems to punch above its weight despite devolving into a shadow of its former self.
But as Barr will likely tell you, their money still spends good. As he noted in a statement filing the legislation:
“Asset managers should be in the business of maximizing returns for investors, not pushing their own political agenda at the expense of every day Americans. Our bill protects average Americans saving and building wealth through retirement plans. It also preserves access to capital for energy producers to ensure costs won’t skyrocket further for Americans at the pump during a time when gas prices are at a historic high.”
So, both Barr, chair of the House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy, and Cameron, now the CEO of some silly anti-woke outfit, are fighting on the same anti-ESG side.
And they may be fighting further, next time against each other. Both men have been cited as possible GOP candidates to replace McConnell, if the 81-year-old lawmaker retires.
No telling who might win this slugfest as the two seek the crown as most anti-woke candidate. The title might go to the man who does the best job of explaining what the hell woke is, without leaning on, as Groucho Marx sang in Horsefeathers, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”
Written by Bill Straub, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune.