Biteman Puzzled By Indifference To ‘Woke Capitalism’ Movement While Biden Goes Gung-Ho For It

Sen. Bo Biteman said he doesn't understand the reluctance among some legislators to support legislation that would prohibit Wyoming from supporting companies that actively oppose coal, oil, and gas.

March 03, 20235 min read

Collage Maker 03 Mar 2023 02 57 PM 6861
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Blurb: The fight against “woke capitalism” goes federal as Congress shoots down a U.S. Department of Labor rule allowing for political decisions in retirement investing. The sponsor of two unsuccessful Wyoming bills pushing back against these practices in state business said he’ll continue to pursue the issue.  

 President Joe Biden has vowed to veto a U.S. Senate resolution that would void a U.S. Department of Labor rule permitting fund managers to use environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when making investments for pension plan participants. The U.S. House passed identical legislation last week.  

The Senate’s version passed with two Democrats siding with Republicans, possibly signaling that nationwide Republican opposition to a movement that aims to factor in progressive political ideals in business decisions, is gaining support on both sides of the aisle. 

Biden said Monday he plans to veto any effort to overturn the ESG rule, which would be the first veto of his presidency. 

The White House said in a statement that the use of ESG doesn’t conflict with fiduciary responsibilities and that the department rule isn’t a mandate. It only grants fund managers the option of factoring in ESG considerations when investing. 

Shall Not Pass 

Two bills prohibiting ESG considerations in state business decisions died this session when the Wyoming House didn’t consider them. The House Appropriations Committee had given the bills a “do not pass” recommendation, which places them at the bottom of the list of bills for consideration on the floor.  

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, who sponsored both bills, told Cowboy State Daily he’ll continue to pursue the issue.  

“I don’t know what the deal is with the resistance here in the body, but maybe they just don’t know enough about it yet,” said Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester.  

Common Sense 

Sometimes called “woke capitalism,” ESG is a set of standards by which companies are rated based on their commitment to progressive politics. Companies can be rated down for their failure to demonstrate a plan to reduce their emissions. Companies associated with fossil fuels — whether they be coal mines, oil and gas producers, or utilities — can get rated down unless they’re actively working to reduce emissions, which often means they have to show efforts to stop selling their products.  

Critics of the movement say it’s being used to push progressive policies through financial institutions, rather than through legislatures. It’s therefore circumnavigating the democratic process.  

Supporters of Biteman’s bills argued that Wyoming shouldn’t support companies that actively oppose coal, oil and gas, which generate most of the state’s revenue.  

“It’s common sense that Wyoming protects its own interests,” Biteman said.   

Opponents, however, found a number of faults with the bills. There were concerns that the bills weren’t specific enough about what constitutes political-based business decisions.

The bills carried steep penalties for failing to comply, which opponents argued could dissuade companies from doing business with Wyoming, especially in light of vague language.

Critics were also concerned that the bills were too broad and would limit what companies Wyoming was able to do business with, which would ultimately hurt the state financially.  


The bills’ supporters aren’t alone in their pushback against ESG in state financial decisions. In the last year, at least 21 states have proposed or enacted legislation limiting the use of ESG in financial decisions, much of it related to the energy and firearms industries. 

The State Financial Officers Federation, an organization of state auditors, controllers, and treasurers that promotes free-market principle in public finances, launched a campaign in November to educate the public on ESG, called Our Money Our Values.  

Missouri’s state treasurer announced in October the state would pull $500 million from BlackRock, one of the largest firms pushing companies to adopt ESG standards. Florida removed $2 billion from the company in December.  

Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told Cowboy State Daily that the bipartisan way the Senate agreed to shoot down the ESG rule is “commendable.”  

“It’s a stunning rebuke of both the ESG agenda and the fact that President Biden has embraced it,“ Pyle said.  

Strong Message 

When Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon was state treasurer, he became one of the earliest critics of ESG when Bank of the West announced in 2018 it would limit the amount of business it does with companies involved in the production of fossil fuels.  

Other state treasures began efforts later, such as West Virginia’s Riley Moore, who has made the ESG pushback a top priority in his state. Pyle said all these efforts started on the state level, which is now boiling up to the federal level. The Senate resolution, he said, will bolster state-level efforts.  

“It’s a strong message, both to Wall Street and to the Biden administration, that they need to reel back,” Pyle said.

Biteman said he’ll continue to work with the treasurer’s office on future legislation, or any other legislators who want to remove politics from state business.  

“The invitation is there, and I’ll continue to work with anyone who wants to work with me on this bill,” Biteman said.

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