January 27, 2000
UNAMBIGUOUS VICTORY IN THE DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN AGAINST TALISMAN ENERGY
UNDER TREMENDOUS DIVESTMENT PRESSURES, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY SELLS ALL 680,000 SHARES OF TALISMAN
The State of New Jersey has divested, fully and completely, from its enormous position of 680,000 shares of Talisman Energy, the Canadian oil company now complicit in the ongoing human suffering and destruction in Sudan. The story is broken in today’s Newark Star-Ledger, the most influential and widely circulated newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger inaugurated scrutiny of the state’s controversial holding in Talisman Energy in mid-December with an opinion essay calling on the state to divest.
New Jersey quickly became the focal point of the American divestment movement, with tremendous political pressures brought to bear on both the Governor’s office and the state legislature. Pressure from the New Jersey House Congressional delegation in Washington was especially intense, with Congressman Donald Payne (a Democrat) and Congressman Chris Smith (a Republican) leading the charge.
A DIVESTMENT CHRONOLOGY:
*September through November 1999: New Jersey’s profile as the largest municipal, state, or public pension shareholder in Talisman begins to emerge ever more clearly; various communications with the state Treasury Office make pointedly clear the implications of shareholding in Talisman Energy;
*December 16, 1999: an impassioned op/ed arguing for immediate divestment appears in the Newark Star-Ledger, the state’s major newspaper;
*December 30, 1999: Congressman Chris Smith, highly influential member of the House International Relations Committee, writes a brutally direct letter to Governor Christine Todd Whitman, urging immediate divestment. Congressman Smith calls divestment a “moral, political, and economic imperative”;
*January 6, 2000: The Bergen Record, another highly influential newspaper in the state, runs a major news story on the divestment issue, and the response of the Governor’s office. In it Peter McDonough, the Governor’s spokesman, declared: “We might very well end up backing out of this investment. The controversy is not going to go away.” Another spokesman for the Governor confirmed that divestment was under active consideration;
[The article pointedly notes that Steven Kornrumpf, investment counsel for the Treasury Department, had overseen the purchase of additional Talisman shares as recently as August 1999—this creates a narrow time-frame for understanding how dramatic the sale of these 680,000 shares has been];
*January, 2000: State legislators, in both the Assembly and the Senate, come under increasingly intense grass roots pressure to divest from Talisman Energy; bipartisan support for divestment within the legislature grows significantly;
*January 16, 17, 2000: There are major Martin Luther King Day events at the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, featuring the appearance of nationally prominent African American leaders and politicians. The effect is a further highlighting of the calls for divestment, and a potent demonstration of the commitment of the African American community to this cause;
*January 27, 2000: The Newark Star-Ledger breaks the story of New Jersey’s liquidation of its entire 680,000 share position in Talisman Energy.
Buoyed by the news in New Jersey, as well as by the news that a major investment firm has recently liquidated its entire (and very recently acquired) mutual fund shareholding in Talisman, the divestment campaign now moves on to other prominent shareholdings. There will be an increasingly sharp focus on high-profile mutual funds.
The divestment campaign has gathered enormous momentum, and grass roots support increases daily—especially among student activists and African American constituencies. Indeed, the political profile of the campaign has broadened in striking fashion, making it ever more difficult to characterize as being led by conservative or religious groups.
As this potent political fact becomes more apparent, support by mainstream political power has also increased. Action in Washington on this front proceeds apace. Thus it is especially noteworthy that there appears today in the Washington Post an extensive piece on oil development in Sudan by Dave Ottaway. Talisman Energy is featured, along with the most prominent villain of the piece, China National Petroleum Corp. (now struggling desperately to keep alive its bid for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange). Talisman will inevitably continue to be tarred by the brush of China’s egregiously bad record of human rights violations, and China’s unwavering support for Sudan in the face of any and all criticism.
The role of oil production and development in Sudan’s agony becomes daily more visible. This alone assures that the divestment campaign will simply not stop short of full victory: the forcing of Talisman Energy from Sudan.
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