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Schoenberg seeks to block investments in Iran

An Illinois Senate committee has unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston that will prohibit Illinois insurance companies from investing in countries that are designated as government sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. Department of State.

An Illinois Senate committee has unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston that will prohibit Illinois insurance companies from investing in countries that are designated as government sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. Department of State.

Schoenberg said the measure is aimed at blocking Illinois-based insurance companies and mutual funds from having financial relationships with Iran, which is defying the international community with its pursuit of nuclear weapons and whose leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has denied the existence of the Holocaust.

Sen. Schoenberg (Senate Democratic Caucus photo)

"As the rogue Iranian regime accelerates its irresponsible efforts to develop nuclear weapons and violently blocks democratic freedoms for its own people, we must continue to exert our financial leverage against the Iranian government in clear and unmistakable terms," Sen. Schoenberg said.

Under Senate Bill 3382, an insurance company headquartered in Illinois would be prohibited from acquiring any investment in a country that has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department, as defined by these three federal laws:

  • Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting the US from providing assistance to any governments supporting international terrorism. Some of the countries that qualify under Section 620A are Sudan, Iran, and Syria.
  • Section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act prohibiting the sale or release of any munitions to countries that repeatedly provide support for acts of international terrorism.
  • Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act requiring a validated license for the export of goods or technology to a country if the Secretary of State has made the following determinations: (A) The government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. (B) The export of such goods or technology could make a significant contribution to the military potential of such country, including its military logistics capability, or could enhance the ability of such country to support acts of international terrorism.

Jay Tcath, Senior Vice President of the Jewish United Fund, praised Senator Schoenberg for his efforts on the bill. "Maximizing diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran is the surest, most peaceful path of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of the very Iranian rulers who support terror abroad and political repression at home," said Tcath. "It is our job, even here in the American Midwest, to do our part in this global effort, and Senator Schoenberg’s latest effort is another meaningful step fulfilling that opportunity and meeting the Iranian challenge.

"The clock is ticking, and we hope the Illinois legislature and the governor can transform this idea into law quickly," he added.

In 2008, Schoenberg, who’s the assistant majority leader of the Senate, and House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang of Skokie successfully passed a measure that prohibited Illinois’ public pension funds from investing in companies doing business with the Iranian energy sector, which is widely considered to be the funding source for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. To date, over $133 million in funds from the state’s retirement systems have been divested from firms with business ties to the Iranian energy sector. Schoenberg said that this newest legislative proposal was similarly aimed at withholding investment from the countries that harbor and facilitate terrorist activities.

Senate Bill 3382 now moves to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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