Senator Jacqueline Collins has championed a law (SB 23, here) that requires all public pensions to divest from any investments in Sudan. Technically, it prohibits the Treasurer from depositing any funds or contracting with any financial institution that does business in Sudan. Sudan is one of the saddest places in the world, where a genocidal campaign is waging.
To try to stop the horror, the State of Illinois is trying to avoid profiting from the misery of others. The state law requires all public pension funds to get a certification from private equity firms that they are not investing in Sudan (until the genocide ends). This has caused some administrative problems for investors and private companies, as they can no longer profit in the Sudan and today they fought back.
In federal district court in Chicago, they have sued the State, claiming that the state law is not permitted by the federal Constitution, because it resembles foreign policy and that's implicitly prohibited. (I don't recall that debate in Philadelphia....)
Keep in mind, no American companies are permitted to invest in Sudan, pursuant to a federal law passed in 2002. So only non-American companies are impacted by the Illinois law. And these non-American companies are getting together to use the resources of our country (the federal judiciary) to ensure that our pension funds can finance their operations in Sudan.
The main plaintiff in the case is the National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org), a big money organization out of D.C. that always seems to be advocating for lower wages and higher profits (funny how that works out). They managed to recruit eight Illinois pension funds to join the case.
Senator Collins released a statement arguing that state pension funds have no standing to sue the state, and that divestment is not foreign policy -- it's just disassociation with a genocidal country. Governor Blagojevich defended the law as well. This bill, by the way, was co-sponsored by Peter Roskam and Ed Petka and passed out of the Senate unanimously. It also earned 89 votes in the House and was supported by both Governor Blagojevich and Treasurer Topinka. But where there's money to be made.....
Here's an article from the federal government. (Yes, that's our government press at work. But, a good article nonetheless).
I hope those conservative judicial activists don't infringe on the authority of Illinois to decide where and with whom to invest our billions in pension funds. I really can't imagine the Founding Fathers, each of whom believed passionately in states' rights, would have taken the view that a state could not direct their own funds away from a particular foreign nation. Part of me hopes this case goes to the Supreme Court, as I'd find the debate interested, particularly to see what Justice Scalia, Mr. Original Intent, would say.
Anyway, it seems a little sad that a bipartisan initiative that will likely help end an ongoing genocide is the subject of a lawsuit because profits are apparently more important that helping to stop a genocide.