“Conservatives Have a New Rallying Cry: Down With ESG; A Federalist Society veteran is heading up a multimillion-dollar effort to push anti-ESG messaging and legislation”


Conservative activists are coordinating a multimillion-dollar national campaign to make ESG the next CRT.

Their goal: Transform the acronym for environmental, social and corporate-governance investing into a rallying cry against “woke capitalism,” much the way critical race theory became shorthand for broader criticisms about how race is taught in schools. The same conservative money is behind both efforts, documents and interviews show. 

ESG investments consider a company’s climate-change initiatives, diversity and corporate transparency as financial factors. Some of the largest asset managers, including BlackRock Inc., have said that taking such things under consideration is good business.

A growing collection of conservatives disagrees. They argue that the people whose retirement plans the big firms handle never consented to having their money tied up in what they consider to be liberal causes. Investments, they say, should be based solely on returns….

 conservative nonprofit called Marble Freedom Trust and its consulting firm, CRC Advisors, are leading the anti-ESG push and have spent more than $10 million on the effort so far, mostly through the group Consumers’ Research, people familiar with the spending said.

The trust is overseen by Leonard Leo, a longtime leader at the Federalist Society, a network of lawyers that grooms conservative scholars, officials and judges. Mr. Leo helped former President Donald Trump choose conservative Supreme Court justices.

Formed in 2020, Marble Freedom Trust has received $1.6 billion in funding from Chicago billionaire and former manufacturer Barre Seid. Since then, it has distributed money to groups fighting some of the top conservative causes, including limits on abortion and opposition to critical race theory, according to tax records, advertisements and interviews.

Also on that list is pushing back on ESG. 

“The ESG movement is polluting our culture and assaulting the dignity and worth of people,” Mr. Leo said. “Our enterprise stands with a growing group of Americans who are fighting to crush leftist dominance in this arena.”

Some of the major voices in the debate, including Consumers’ Research, the Heritage Foundation, the State Financial Officers Foundation and the American Accountability Foundation, all received grants from entities related to Marble Freedom Trust, according to tax filings.

Those groups are distributing model legislation in state capitals and providing talking points to state and federal lawmakers. They are funding ads attacking companies that support ESG principles.

A digital ad by the Heritage Foundation’s political-action committee portrays an oil-and-gas driller being denied a small-business loan in part because he has never “identified as a woman or even nonbinary.”

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