DeSantis denounces 'woke' corporate ideals, investments in legislative proposal

A proposed bill would make it illegal for companies to discriminate against customers for their religious, political and social beliefs.

TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed legislation that would make it illegal for companies to discriminate against their customers for their religious, political and social beliefs.

The governor, speaking Wednesday morning at a Tampa seafood restaurant alongside the next speaker of the Florida House, State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Volusia County, criticized what he called “woke” companies and investors who allocate money in ESG funds.

“Today, we are here to talk about something that has really become very prevalent throughout the upper echelons of our society, and that is proposing woke ideology on the economy,” DeSantis said.

PayPal, a company that could be threatened under this proposed legislation, last year blocked a Christian crowdfunding site that helped raise money for people who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

GoFundMe earlier this year also paused donations to truck drivers protesting against vaccine mandates in Canada.

By investing in ESG — or environmental, social and governance — factors, people are placing their money into companies that score highly on environmental and societal responsibility scales, according to Forbes. For example, a company that may rank at the top of the environmental factor may be a leader in sustainability initiatives.

In a handout distributed just prior to DeSantis’ news conference, the state argues ESG standards disadvantage “small, medium, and start-up businesses which cannot cope with increased costs to compete with woke mega corporations, and subverting the will of their shareholders.”

Although the text of the proposed legislation was not available, the state handout says not only would financial companies be barred from discriminating against customers for their beliefs, the State Board of Administration fund managers would not be allowed to consider ESG factors when investing state money.

Those managers must “only consider maximizing the return on investment on behalf of Florida’s retirees.”

“We don’t want to see the economy further politicized,” DeSantis said. “We want to push back against the politicization…our investment funds should be for the best interests and should not be a vehicle to oppose an ideological agenda.”

DeSantis says the changes must come through new statutes, which would be worked on with incoming Speaker Renner.

DeSantis last spring signed the “Stop WOKE Act” into law that restricts how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplace training programs. It bars any teaching that could make students or workers feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin.  

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