West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore has made battling ESG a top priority, and he now hopes to bring that fight to the halls of Congress.
Moore jumped into the 2024 contest this week, seeking the Republican nomination to represent the state’s 2nd District. Moore grabbed national headlines by using the power of the typically low-profile state treasurer role to work against the environmental, social, and governance push from corporations and financial institutions.
Moore told the Washington Examiner during a Tuesday interview that he hopes to continue his anti-ESG crusade at the federal level should he be chosen to serve in Congress.
“Look, I’ve been in the trenches on this for two years, and by the time I get there, it will be four years in dealing with it on a day-to-day basis,” Moore said about ESG. “So I’m going to have a wealth of experience coming into Congress, if I’m so lucky to be elected, that can help and inform this ESG scheme that we’re trying to defeat.”
While proponents of ESG see it as a way that finance and business can effect social change, such as by mitigating the effects of climate change, Moore and Republicans see the push as an attempt to distort the free market and even the culture of the United States through capital and influence.
“Certainly there have been individuals and elected officials on the Hill that have talked about ESG, but I think there is not a total comprehensive understanding of how pervasive this is, how dangerous it is, and steps that need to be taken to kind of fill in some of the cracks here where the states obviously cannot,” he said.
Moore has taken several actions against ESG over the past couple of years, with many other GOP state treasurers following suit.
“I was the first state treasurer in the country to divest from BlackRock, the first state treasurer in the country to put out a restricted financial institution list,” Moore said.
Earlier this year, Moore announced that his state would end the use of a BlackRock investment fund. He said BlackRock has pushed companies to embrace investment strategies that hurt the fossil fuel industry while increasing investment in Chinese companies that go against U.S. interests and damage his state's manufacturing base.
Over the summer, his office also declared five financial institutions ineligible for state banking contracts on the grounds that they “boycott” fossil fuel companies.
The restricted financial institutions are BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo — many of the biggest financial firms in the world. As the blacklist took effect, all five firms are no longer eligible for state contracts, and any existing contracts were voided. The news meant the firms will lose access to $18 billion in annual inflows and outflows.
Moore said the topic of ESG has generated a tremendous amount of attention among constituents in the state. Interest in the topic has particularly grown over the past year as Republican officials across the country like Moore began taking more pointed aim at it.
“When I first started talking about ESG, people were looking at me like I was wearing a tinfoil hat,” Moore said, “but now, over the last two years and where we are right now, I speak at lots of county dinners all around the state, and there’s not too many people at this point that have not heard of it.”
Moore said if elected to serve in Congress, he wants to look at the rating agencies given that some now have ESG considerations in the bond ratings — something he referred to as “economic extortion.”
Additionally, Moore said he hopes to push for aggressive oversight in the ESG realm more generally should be elected to serve the 2nd District.
“There is a lot of digging that needs to go on here,” Moore said. “I think there are a lot of investigations that need to happen, and a lot of things need to be brought to light of what is actually happening in these board rooms and at the managerial level where these decisions are being made on this ESG investment and are they violating their fiduciary responsibility.”
Among other priorities, Moore said he is well suited to advocate for development in his district, particularly in the aerospace and defense industries. He also said the confines of the district itself are special to him.
He pointed out that he was born in Morgantown, located in the district, and now lives in the eastern panhandle, which stretches toward the Washington, D.C., suburbs. In addition, the district includes the northern panhandle, which shoots up toward Pittsburgh and has been a Moore family home for generations.
“This district is really kind of like a dream for me,” Moore said.
Moore said he was considering a run against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) but decided that a run for House makes the most sense for him right now. It is worth noting that Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) already threw his hat into the ring for the Senate race, announcing just days ago that he will be running to be the GOP’s candidate to oust Manchin in 2024.
“I’m a believer in stating early and clearly what your intentions are and letting people know,” Moore said of his decision to announce his candidacy so far in advance.