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Idaho lawmakers want investment money out of Twitter, others

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A group of conservative Idaho lawmakers is asking managers of the state’s employee retirement system to divest in tech companies the lawmakers say don’t value free speech.

The 22 Republican lawmakers and Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in the letter sent Monday to the retirement system’s five board members said that about $650,000 should be removed from Twitter, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.

Twitter and Facebook each banned former President Donald Trump from their platforms following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters earlier this month.

Apple and Google also this month removed an app favored by Trump supporters called Parler from their app stores, saying Parler hadn’t policed posts adequately. Amazon booted Parler from its web-hosting service, citing repeated violations of rules.

Parler had been a favorite app for many Trump supporters, and in Idaho was used to coordinate rallies in support of Trump at the Statehouse.

Trump won red-state Idaho with about 64% of the vote in the November election.

By investing in the tech companies, the letter states, the board members “make a conscious decision to use Idaho taxpayer dollars to support the practices of these companies in censoring the political and religious speech of Idahoans.”

The Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, or PERSI, has five board members that have each been appointed by Republican governors and confirmed by the Republican-dominated Senate.

The board’s chairman, Jeff Cilek, responded to the letter on Tuesday with a memo citing an investment strategy to minimize risk and maximize return, but didn’t mention divesting.

“PERSI’s simple, transparent, focused, and patient approach following conventional investment principals continues to produce strong results,” Cilek wrote.

The board manages about $20 billion, paying out about $1 billion annually to retired state employees.

“We are confident the board can find other companies to invest in that will not pose a compromise to the values of all the members who contribute their hard-earned monies to PERSI,” the letter from lawmakers said.

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