RFK Jr. Blasts BlackRock for Buying Off GOP Pols

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. | Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called out BlackRock by name for buying off U.S. politicians, during a recent event in Dallas.

“Both political parties have been captured by corporate entities … ironically, it is the same groups, such as BlackRock, which owns all the defense contractors, all the pharmaceutical companies, most of the credit card companies, the banks, etc. — and it is one of the biggest donors to both political parties,” he went on to say.

The nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and son of Robert F. Kennedy then elaborated on this point.

“Those political parties are not offering the American public the things that they purport to disagree on. [They hold themselves to] a tiny tiny little Overton window of culture war issues but the big issues that … are really existential to Americans [like] a $34 trillion debt, toxic [political] polarization, the chronic disease epidemic, the destruction of our soils, the chronic lying from government — none of that is even part of the discussion between those two political candidates,” he said.

The Overton window is a political science concept that contends there are limits to what the general public will talk about as political issues at any given time.

He saw much of this capture as a product of Citizens United v. FEC — a 2010 case in which the Supreme Court held that limiting independent expenditures by corporations and other collective entities on political campaigns violates the First Amendment. This ruling is widely believed to have increased corporate influence in politics.

Kennedy’s statement came in answer to a reporter at EarthX, an environmental conference, who asked what Kennedy would tell people who wanted to “follow in your footsteps and try to make the world better?” In response, Kennedy enumerated various places he saw as needing reform and took a torch to major political institutions in his answer. However, he singled out just one corporation: BlackRock.

Kennedy is only the latest in a series of high-profile figures to take aim at BlackRock for its political influence. Aaron Kinsey, chairman of the State Board of Education, recently announced Permanent School Fund would fire BlackRock as an asset manager.

“The Texas Permanent School Fund (PSF) has a fiduciary duty to protect Texas schools by safeguarding and growing the approximately $1 billion in annual oil and gas royalties managed by the Texas General Land Office,” Kinsey said in a statement.

“Today [March 19, 2024], PSF leadership delivered an official notice to global asset manager BlackRock terminating its financial management of approximately $8.5 billion in Texas’ assets. Terminating BlackRock’s contract ensures PSF’s full compliance with Texas law,” he added.

The move resulted from Senate Bill 13, also known as the Oil & Gas Investment Protection Act, which forbids state and local governments from doing business with asset managers that discriminate against the oil and gas industry.

BlackRock was accused by state comptroller Glenn Hegar of being one of 10 entities unlawfully discriminating against Texas energy producers because of its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies in 2022. ESG is a type of activist investing that attempts to create political or social change while also driving a profit. BlackRock had previously announced a Climate Action 100+ agenda intended to pivot the company away from fossil fuels, but it has since been scaled back.

Other public entities have come to similar assessments of BlackRock. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas dropped more than $500 million worth of investments in BlackRock in 2023, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Through all of this, BlackRock has denied any wrongdoing.

“This is anti-competitive,” Mark McCombe, head of BlackRock’s U.S. business, told the Financial Times in 2022. “We have never turned our back on Texas oil and gas companies.”

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, a major proponent of the company’s politicization, recently expressed frustration with how his company has been politicized. He appeared to reverse himself in a recent earnings call, however.

“Unfortunately, there are still others out there who put short-term politics, who continuously lie about these issues, they’re putting those issues above the long-term fiduciary responsibilities,” Fink said. “As a fiduciary, politics should never outweigh performance.”

Despite the attention from national and state political figures, some Texas entities have grown closer to the company. After a DX investigation revealed potentially unlawful investments with BlackRock in Texa$aver, the 401k and 457(b) retirement program for state employees, the state Employee Retirement System (ERS) drew closer to the company. ERS moved additional employee accounts to BlackRock despite the potential illegality of their relationship, DX previously reported.

Kennedy’s comments were echoic of other statements he has made on BlackRock and his belief that other American institutions have been captured by corporations.

In a recent exchange on the USDA on his podcast, Kennedy called out the four major meat packers and several other industries for “shaking down farmers,” being owned by BlackRock, and capturing the USDA.

Similarly, expanding on this point about corporate capture, which is generally understood to refer to a private actor gaining control of a governmental entity and using it for its own devices, Kennedy took aim at the three major federal health agencies in response to a question from DX.

When asked what he would do about the accumulation of toxic herbicides and pesticides in Texas water, Kennedy responded, “The [National Institute of Health], because it is captured by the chemical industry, does not do the kind of studies [and] does not require the kind of studies that need to be done to determine the safety of these products — and because of that, the manufacturers get to keep poisoning people and animals, etc., without any consequences.”

“I am going to shift NIH’s priorities to do those studies,” the environmental and consumer protection attorney added. “I cannot tell you that we are going to ban every bad chemical, but I can put enough science out there that the lawyers can now litigate against the chemical company and let the market shut down that chemical very quickly.”

The two other major candidates in the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, have not been as focused on BlackRock as Kennedy. However, Trump has condemned ESG investing, while Biden vetoed anti-ESG legislation.

Documents from BlackRock’s website indicate the company has donated extensively to both party’s congressional and senatorial leadership, including high-profile figures like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

BlackRock was contacted for comment by The Dallas Express but has not yet received a response.

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