Biteman’s Anti-Woke Investment Bills Clear Committee Unanimously

The Senate Revenue Committee passed two of Sen. Bo Biteman's bills that would prohibit the State of Wyoming from contracting with companies or investment managers who engage in economic boycotts of fossil fuel industries or otherwise put politics over fiduciary responsibility.

February 02, 20237 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Senate Revenue Committee approved two bills this week that would fight back against environment, social and governance (ESG) policies.  

The ESG movement, sometimes referred to as “woke capitalism,” pushes progressive policies through the financial might of banking institutions and companies.  It is a controversial and well-used tool that financers use to measure key factors of potential investments based on corporate policies and ethical impacts of a company’s behavior such as its carbon footprint and contributions to climate change.

Some Wyoming legislators are concerned that in order to enact gun control, timber harvesting restrictions, and anti-fossil fuel policies, the movement is circumnavigating the democratic process. 

The committee voted to move both bills to the senate floor. Last week, the House Minerals Committee passed a similar bill.  

Economic Warfare 

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, sponsored both bills. Senate File 159 involves state contracts and prohibits government entities from entering into contracts with companies for goods and services if those companies engage in economic boycotts for ideological reasons.  

Senate File 172 does the same thing, but it applies to the hiring and retention of investment managers.

The bills carry hefty penalties for any company or investment manager caught violating the law.

“I’ve been trying to stop this economic warfare that’s been taking place against Wyoming’s interests, specifically fossil fuels, fire arms, and our ag industries,” Biteman said.

Biteman said that there are powerful banking leaders who control trillions of dollars in investments and use that power to circumnavigate the legislative process. 

“It’s not capitalism. It’s anything but capitalism. Milton Friedman would be rolling over in his grave if he saw what was happening to our economy,” Biteman said, referring to the American economist who was a vocal proponent of free-market principles.  

Making Headlines 

State Treasurer Curt Meier said that state treasurers across the country have been trying to address the issues arising out of ESG. He pointed to the Our Money Our Values campaign initiated by the State Financial Officers Foundation, which tries to educate people on what ESG is and how it pushes policies outside democratic processes.

“These bills will make a lot of headlines. But I think that we need to fight them on other fronts, too,” Meier said.

Meier had some concerns about the bills. He said that the State of Wyoming has a private equity contract with Blackrock, a firm that’s an outspoken proponent of ESG.  This arrangement has been lucrative for the state.  It has brought 54% on investments in its first two years.  

 The treasurer also said that the bills could do long-term damage to relationships with private equity firms. It takes a long time to build trust with these firms, Meier explained. They are a tight-knit group, he warned, so if one of them couldn’t do business in Wyoming, the others might be reluctant to as well.  

“It’s a community,” Meier said. 

He also said that there aren’t a lot of investment managers that would steer clear of the penalties outlined in the bills, which would limit Wyoming’s investment opportunities. The treasurer’s office would also have to renegotiate most of its contracts with the investment managers it currently has.  

“I think the majority would probably drop off, especially with the penalty clause in there,” Meier said. 

Unintended Consequences 

Patrick Fleming, chief investment officer for the Wyoming Treasurer’s Office, warned of potential unintended consequences if the bills were to pass. He said there’s a lot of vague language in the bills that leave uncertainty as to who would be liable and under what conditions. That would make businesses wary of working with the State of Wyoming.

“If there was something that came out that said the AG was suing them for breach of fiduciary duties, that would be extremely problematic,” Fleming said.  

He estimated that the cost to divest from companies that might not be in compliance with the law could run $250 million to $500 million in state investments. And with the total size of Wyoming’s investments, which is around $25 billion, it would be difficult to find companies that could handle that volume.

Another issue, Fleming said, is that companies say one thing and do another. Blackrock, for example, has $300 million invested in carbon-producing companies, Fleming said.

The anti-fossil fuel campaign is also creating opportunities for Wyoming, because companies are seeking investors where there aren’t many. Wyoming is in the process of closing on a deal involving an $83 million pipeline in the Powder River Basin, Fleming said. Because the company is involved in coal bed methane, it’s hard to find buyers. So, they are selling for 57 cents on the dollar.  

Like It Or Not 

Keith Rittle, who represents the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said that climate change is a relevant issue, which shouldn’t be dismissed. 

“There is a wide body of scientific evidence behind it,” Kittle argued.

He said a majority of the nation believes “action is overdue” and that a transition away from fossil fuels is inevitable.

“It will take time. There will be bumps in the road. But it will transpire whether we like it or not,” Rittle said.  


Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, talked about the extensive impact that ESG has had on the mining industries, especially coal.

“It’s an alarming trend,” Deti said.  

Mining is a capital-intensive industry, and so cutting it off from capital has impacted the businesses ability to grow and operate.  

“Wyoming’s core industries should not be subjected to the hindrance of activist shareholders and Wall Street bankers bending the knee to harmful progressive environmental policies,” Deti said.  

Deti said that a CEO of a coal company seeking lending options from a large financial institution was told that the loan would only come if the company agreed to exit the coal market within the next 10 years.  

“It’s discriminatory and it’s un-American,” Deti said.  


Scott Meier, representing the Wyoming Bankers Association, asked about the impact of the bills on Wyoming’s charter banks, which do various sponsorship and donations for community events and organizations. As an example, if a bank in Jackson were to support a gay pride parade, Meier wondered if they’d get penalized. 

Biteman said that the bill contains provisions for investigations, which would allow a bank supporting pride events to appeal penalties.  

Agriculture And Schools 

Brett Moline, representing the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, spoke in favor of the bills for their positive impact on the agriculture industry, which he said is also being negatively impacted by ESG policies. 

Sarah Beiber, a resident of Cheyenne said that ESG is being taught in Wyoming public schools and presented as a positive influence on industry in financial literacy classes. She asked if the bills could be applied to schools, and Biteman said that was something better dealt with by local school boards.  

Firearms Industry  

Nephi Cole, director of Government Relations and state affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said the organization was supportive of the bills because they would protect the firearms industry from ESG policies.  

Cole said the concerns of the bill were overblown, as Texas and West Virginia passed similar laws.

“Wyoming deserves to know if they are doing business with somebody that has a discriminatory policy written down and that is operating under it,” Cole said.  


Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, said he was concerned about potential unintended consequences that were mentioned in testimony. He said he’d vote to move the bill so it could be discussed on the senate floor.

Both bills passed unanimously, with Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, being excused.  

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