Divest Oregon Responds to Oregon Political Establishment Undermining HB 2601

Salem, OR — Despite overwhelming public support for the 2023 Oregon Treasury Investment and Climate Act (HB 2601), the Oregon State Treasury publicly opposed the transparency legislation and successfully lobbied behind the scenes to stop the bill. HB 2601 — Willamette Week’s “Bill of the Week” — was designed to address the financial risks posed by climate change while promoting accountability in the management of Oregon’s investments. With scientists delivering a “final warning” about failed global climate leadership in this week’s UN IPCC report, the campaign to monitor Oregon’s money and hold public officials accountable for real climate action will continue with urgency, said Divest Oregon.

“Rather than exercise their legislative independence and risk challenging the status quo, some lawmakers in Salem caved to pressure from the Oregon State Treasury and, presumably, the various special interests behind the Treasury that have no interest in publicizing where exactly our money is going,” said Susan Palmiter, Divest Oregon’s campaign co-lead. “Treasurer Tobias Read spent time and energy, on the taxpayer’s dime, to lobby legislators, public agencies, and labor unions to block HB 2601 which was, at the core, a bill about accountability. Should state agencies be lobbying against their own oversight?”

In 2015, Oregon received an “F” ranking in state integrity, with poor marks for political financing, executive accountability, and state pension fund management. Many of these dynamics are still at play: this year, the state was rocked by “bourbon gate,” which saw corrupt public officials hoarding rare bottles of booze and, in 2022, the Oregon State Treasury itself came under international scrutiny for investing in the NSO Group, whose signature product was used to spy on dissidents, activists, journalists, and diplomats.

“Oregonians deserve better governance and political leadership that reflects their concerns and demands,” said Jenifer Schramm, Divest Oregon co-lead. “Those that manage our investments might not be stashing away bourbon, but what exactly are they hiding? The campaign for climate justice, retirement security, transparency, and public accountability is just beginning. With the right leadership and financial foresight, Oregon will exit from fossil fuels: the question is will it be too late?”

To date, over 1,550 institutions representing over $40 trillion in assets have already committed to fossil fuel divestment. Divest Oregon is a grassroots coalition of 100 organizations across the state, including unions with 66,000 PERS members, racial and climate justice groups, youth-led movements, and faith communities.