By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
The Wyoming Freedom Caucus is frustrated with Attorney General Bridget Hill’s leadership.
In a Tuesday afternoon press release, the caucus specifically mentioned her silence on environmental and social governance policies (ESG).
“Wyoming deserves an Attorney General who is accountable and responsive- this lack of advocacy proves that now is the time for Wyomingites to popularly elect our Attorney General,” the press release said.
ESG is a framework of data points designed to show a company’s stakeholders how well an organization is managing risks and opportunities related to environmental, social, and governance criteria.
The movement to use regulation to manage or reduce pollution and other social factors has taken on multiple forms since the 1980s, but ESG differs in that it is seen as a more proactive rather reactive measure. There are a growing number of ESG rating agencies that now assign ESG scores.
Corporate shareholders often send proxies to cast votes on corporate matters. The proxy holders have legal and contractual duties to act in the financial interest of their clients.
In a Jan. 17 letter to the nation’s top proxy-voting advisory firms, 21 Republican state attorneys general criticized the firms for allegedly placing social activism ahead of the financial interests of their clients.
According to Pluribus News, proxy advisers provide direction to large investors, including states, on how to vote on a myriad of issues put before shareholders at annual meetings, including executive-pay packages and potential mergers and acquisitions.
Hill’s signature was absent from the letter but the Freedom Caucus said she was not offered an opportunity to sign it.
“Nevertheless, the caucus calls on A.G. Hill to take a stand and protect Wyoming’s extractive industries and way of life. Our state is under attack and is worthy of a full defense,” it said.
Hill didn’t have a direct response to the press release but did share with Cowboy State Daily her thoughts on ESG.
“It is a concerning topic to me because I know of its potential to impact the people and the economy in this state,” Hill said. “I have joined other letters on the interrelated topic of climate disclosures which seem geared toward ESG. I am monitoring the ESG situation and looking for appropriate times to make our voice heard in a legal forum, and I will continue to do so.”
In recent years environmental and social activists have spent more time concentrating on corporate activism.
“Attempting to use big business as an arm of the government, these activists bully America’s largest corporations into promulgating unpopular dictates that would otherwise fail in the court of public opinion,” the Wyoming Freedom Caucus statement said.
“They cannot achieve a net-zero emissions policy in the halls of Congress, so they turn to powerful boardrooms. They cannot force racial quotas on private entities from statehouses, so they seek to blackmail big corporations into implementing them nationwide.”
The Freedom Caucus believes Wyoming may be affected more than any other state by ESG scores due to its significant dependence on energy resources. Most energy industries receive low ESG scores.
Energy was the best performing market sector in 2022 returning 66% of investments.
“Environmental and social governance policies seek to destroy the resources Wyoming produces- the very same resources used to power the boardrooms promulgating them,” the Freedom Caucus said.
The Freedom Caucus is supporting a few different bills in this year’s Legislature related to this matter.
Senate Bill 159 and House Bill 210 attempt to prevent ESG in Wyoming. SF 159, a bill sponsored by Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, requires parties that engage in state contracts to certify that they do not engage in boycotting or discrimination related to ESG policies.
“Four, five years ago, if I were to mention ESG and economic warfare, everyone in this room would say, ‘why would we need something like that?’” Biteman told the Senate on Tuesday. “Here we are and we are desperately behind the curve on stopping something like that.”
HB 210, brought by Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, authorizes the state treasurer to prepare and maintain a list of financial institutions engaged in ESG, to publish the list upon vote of the board of deposit, and require the state treasurer and state auditor to refuse to enter into a banking contract with a financial institution on the list.
The Freedom Caucus is also supporting House Bill 107, legislation that would allow Wyoming citizens to elect their attorney general. The AG position is an appointed seat in Wyoming. In 43 other states, it is an elected position.
“The WYFC (Wyoming Freedom Caucus) fully supports this effort in the hopes that our state will join the 43 other states who elect their state’s top advocate,” it said.