Media Advisory
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Bi-Partisan Group of Senators, Representatives Announce Sudan Sanctions Legislation

SB 247 requires state pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Sudan

AUSTIN -- Senators Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), and Representatives Corbin Van Arsdale (R-Houston), Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) and Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) today announced the filing of the Stop the Darfur Genocide Act, legislation requiring state of Texas pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Sudan. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and representatives of the University of Texas anti-genocide student coalition, The White Rose Society, joined the legislators in calling for divestiture.

The legislation, SB 247, was developed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force, a project of the Genocide Intervention Network. The bill tightly targets divestment, focusing on those companies in Sudan with a business relationship with the Sudanese government, impart minimal benefit to the underprivileged and have expressed no corporate policy regarding the current situation in Sudan. The targeted divestment approach will help to maximize the impact on the Sudanese government while minimizing harm to the Sudanese civilians and investment returns.

The Stop the Darfur Genocide Act ensures that only the most egregiously offending companies will be affected and excludes any company that substantially benefits those outside of government circles such as those involved in medicine, education, general consumer goods, and agriculture. The legislation has already passed in 6 states and 20 other states are considering similar measures.

"It is clear the Sudanese government is largely unresponsive to recent political pressure," said Senator Ellis. "It's time to turn up the economic pressure, and the pocketbook is a good pressure point. Texans have said with a loud and clear voice that it is time for the State of Texas to take a strong stand against this genocide."

"Texans do things right, but more importantly, we try to do the right thing," said Senator Shapiro. "The divestment from Sudan is the right thing for Texas to do. The tragedies being carried out in that region transcend politics, transcend ideology, transcend geographic regions, and transcend backgrounds. They are tragedies against human rights that, as a child of Holocaust Survivors, I find must be addressed now. By making our state's position evident in where we invest our money, we are sending a clear message that Texas will not stand idly by while this type of atrocity is committed again."

Representative Van Arsdale added, "Texas can't stand idle while thousands of innocent people are being systematically slaughtered. The White House and Congress have declared Darfur a genocide. That's an important threshold. And we shouldn't be funding Texans' retirements by investing in companies who fuel a genocidal engine."

"Ninety percent of the villages in Darfur have been destroyed, and 4 million people are dependent upon humanitarian aide," said Representative Giddings. Furthermore, nearly 80% of Sudan's $500 - $600 million oil revenue has been used to purchase weapons. The genocide in Darfur is both undeniable and morally reprehensible. Verbally chastising the Sudanese government is not enough- it is time to act! We have a moral duty, an obligation as human beings, to stop these human rights abuses."

"I am especially pleased with the progress we're making on this issue," said Representative Burnam. "It is clearly a bipartisan effort and it is clearly growing. If we continue to build and work together, we can help stop the genocide in Darfur."

"Ending the ongoing genocide is a bipartisan issue we can all agree on," said Commissioner Williams, a long-time Darfur advocate. "The effort in Texas reflects a coalition of support from progressive liberal organizations as well as faith-based, ecumenical groups united for a common good. I'm calling upon all Texans to join the effort to end this atrocity and embarrassment to humanity."

"We are grateful for the bipartisan support and leadership of Senators Ellis and Shapiro, Representatives Van Arsdale, McClendon and Giddings, and Commissioner Williams on this vital initiative," said, Adam Sterling, project director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. "Texas has a unique opportunity to lead the nation and the world by divesting its state pension funds from companies that support and condone state-sponsored terrorism."

"The contingent of students concerned about this issue is sizable and organized," said Leran Minc, a board member of The White Rose Society, a UT anti-genocide student coalition. "We will play an active role in advancing this legislation and raising awareness of this issue."

According to the Sudan Divestment Task Force, over the past four years, the Sudanese government and their allied organizations have killed more than 400,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million in Sudan's Darfur region. The U.S. government has already declared these ongoing atrocities to be genocide. The U.N. has declared the crisis the "worst humanitarian disaster in the world today."

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