Should Abortion Be Measure of Treasurer’s Performance?

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All abortion all the time continues to be the theme of Connecticut’s Democratic Party. Last week a candidate in the party’s primary election for state treasurer, Dita Bhargava, pledged in a campaign commercial to use the state’s pension funds to badger companies into guaranteeing their employees access to abortion. If she is elected the state pension funds won’t invest in companies that don’t comply.

Bhargava is not the first candidate for state treasurer to advocate using government pension investments as weapons of political ideology. It is happening throughout the country and Connecticut’s current treasurer, Shawn Wooden, who is retiring this year, has done it as well, divesting from companies that manufacture ammunition. The treasurer’s job might get boring otherwise, with nothing to do but be prudent and honest.

Chris Powell

But the history of Connecticut’s treasurer’s office suggests that being prudent and honest may be challenge enough, since the treasurer 20 years ago extorted kickbacks for the placement of state pension investments, got caught and convicted, and went to federal prison.

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The implication of that disgraceful episode was that the treasurer might best keep state pension investing simple, putting the money into low-commission index funds, government bonds, and gold. Such simplicity might seem even more compelling now that inflation and rising interest rates are pricking what has been called the “everything bubble.”

After all, any company or investment house so eager for state investment that it would yield to political pressure about its abortion insurance policy might not be such a safe investment, and any company that was a safe investment, and any investment house with a highly successful record, would hardly need the patronage of a state treasurer who sought to bully it over its abortion insurance policy.

But at least for the duration of the Democratic primary, in which she is a challenger lacking the endorsement of the party’s state convention, Bhargava figures that she can get crucial support by pledging to politicize the pension funds.

Bhargava is probably correct to think that, at least during the primary campaign, no one in journalism or among her rivals for the nomination will ask her just how much abortion advocacy a company or investment house will have to provide to qualify for investment during her administration.

For example, will the supplicant company or investment house have to provide insurance for all abortion all the time — that is, including abortion after fetal viability right up to the moment of birth? Will coverage for pre-viability abortion but not post-viability abortion be enough? Will a company or investment house that is located in an abortion-banning state and seeks Connecticut pension fund patronage have to finance not only its employees’ abortions but also their travel to an abortion-permissive state?

And why stop with the medical insurance policies of companies in which Connecticut’s pension funds may invest? If restricting abortion is really so outrageous, why invest in any company located in any state or any country that gets in the way of abortion?

Indeed, maybe one of her rivals in the primary will charge that Bhargava doesn’t go far enough — that she is too moderate and all abortion all the time requires so much more.

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Similar fanaticism is playing out in Connecticut’s Republican Party, where the state convention’s choice for U.S. senator, former state Rep. Themis Klarides, is being scorned by her primary rivals for supporting abortion rights and not supporting former President Donald Trump.

The fanaticism on the Republican side is laughable, insofar as challenger Leora Levy, a member of the party’s national committee, used to favor abortion rights and deplore Trump but reversed herself as her opportunities changed. Levy and the other challenger for the Senate nomination, perennial candidate Peter Lumaj, claim to be the only true conservatives in the race.

Their posture may have to adjust if either wins the primary and has to appeal to an electorate that, while starting to perceive the deficiencies of the liberal Democratic state and national administrations, has not elected a Republican to Congress or statewide office in many years.

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Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.