JUNEAU -- Gov. Sean Parnell is calling for the divestment of state investments in companies that either do business in Iran or with Iran's ruling government.
Parnell sent letters this week urging a "policy of divestiture" to the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., the state Revenue commissioner and the chair of the Alaska Retirement Management Board.
"I understand some believe free markets, rather than government policy, should direct our investment choices, but this very real threat requires action," Parnell wrote. He cited nuclear concerns raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency and a hostile Iranian stance against Israel.
Israel has argued that an Iran with nuclear weapons would threaten its survival. The country has cited the Iranian government's calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and support of anti-Israel militant groups.
Parnell said sanction "comes as a last resort, an option our state has historically refused when presented. However, the time to stand on the principles of life and liberty is at hand, and we must step up along with our country and other states."
The Senate is currently considering legislation requiring the state to divest from companies that have investments in Iran. Materials provided to the Senate State Affairs Committee, as part of the hearing process, cited similar policies in at least 22 states and the District of Columbia, plus a unanimous U.S. Senate vote to sanction financial institutions that associate with the Central Bank of Iran.
According to a Legislative Research Services memo, Alaska has an estimated $79 million invested in companies that invest in Iran. Those companies include China-based China Petroleum and Chemical, South Africa-based Sasol Ltd. and Russia-based Gazprom OAO.
The $79 million represents about 0.1 percent of the state's overall investments.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, lead sponsor of the legislation, SB131, said he's glad the governor is following lawmakers' lead, but Wielechowski said he plans to continue pursuing his measure because it is an important policy to have in law.
By BECKY BOHRER