A poll released this summer by the Center for Excellence in Polling (CEP) showed a majority of Alabamians oppose investing taxpayer money in companies that use ideology as a metric to make business and investment decisions. 

Last spring, Alabama lawmakers passed a new law prohibiting government entities from requiring businesses to engage in economic boycotts and barring companies that engage in economic boycotts to further social or political agendas from entering into contracts with the state. 

It also requires the Attorney General to prohibit adopting federal law that may penalize companies for not engaging in ideologically-charged business boycotts.

The outrage surrounding the widespread use of environmental, social governance (ESG) investing spurred the law's passage. 

ESG scoring evaluates how a corporation aligns itself with social goals beyond earning a profit for its shareholders. These goals often pertain to environmental sustainability, advocacy for specific social movements and commitment to "diversity, equity and inclusion" (DEI).

Organizations, such as MSCI, award ESG scores to corporations supposedly based on their adherence to ESG values. Some large asset management groups and banks use ESG ratings to choose where to direct capital.

Conservative critics have called ESG investing a "wokeness report card" and compared it to China's social credit score system.

The new law follows an intense battle between lawmakers and lobbyists paid by Alabama's banking community, which resulted in minor changes to the legislation before it made it to the Senate floor. 

The CEP surveyed likely Alabama voters and found that 65% of respondents supported an investigation by the state into banks and financial institutions that refuse to do business with certain industries for political reasons. 

It also found that 57% opposed investing taxpayer dollars into companies that make investment decisions based on politics, and 59% opposed investing their own money into such companies.

Last year, a spokeswoman with the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), which handles all state employee pensions, said that though the RSA does not have an ESG policy, "ESG criteria [are] important and a factor."

1819 News requested an interview with a representative from the RSA to ask further questions and gain clarification about the comment. 

The spokeswoman stated that the RSA "does not utilize an ESG scoring system" but would not specify whether ESG scores are used in determining which investments the RSA decides to make.

Later that year, the same spokeswoman gave 1819 News another response when asked again for clarification. She said that RSA does not use investments to promote political agendas and only uses ESG to the extent that it "impact[s] the profitability of the company and its investment return."

Though 64% of Democrats polled by the CEP said they support an investigation into companies that refuse to do business with certain industries for political reasons, most Democrats polled also supported using taxpayer money to invest in companies that make politically-motivated decisions.

Nevertheless, 80% of total respondents and 79% of Democrats polled said they would support the state investigating institutions that fail to act in their client's best financial interests.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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