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Illinois 2018 Lookahead

In this Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, Chicago businessman and Democratic candidate for Illinois Gov. Chris Kennedy poses for a portrait in his office in Chicago. 

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy on Tuesday called for state pension funds to pull investments in gun and ammunition companies, and he criticized rival primary rival state Sen. Daniel Biss for not raising the idea first.

Standing outside the James R. Thompson Center near where Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was gunned down three weeks ago, Kennedy said state government employees including lawmakers undermine efforts to "stem the flow" of weapons because their retirement money is invested in index funds that include firearm company holdings.

"Just like a budget is a reflection of an organization's values, so too is an investment portfolio a reflection of an organization's morality," Kennedy said. "Our government should not be using one hand to stem the flow of illegal guns into our communities and at the same time using the other hand to subsidize the gun businesses by investing in them."

The Kenilworth developer and son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was shot to death during his 1968 run for the presidency, recently has focused some attacks on Biss. The two candidates are fighting for position in the race against billionaire entrepreneur and J.B. Pritzker, who has led recent polls.

Kennedy said Biss should have called on the Illinois State Board of Investments to divest from gun and ammunitions holdings at some point during his time as a member of the General Assembly.

The board is responsible for managing the assets of three major state pension funds, including the General Assembly Retirement System. The board's annual report for 2016, the most current report available on its website, lists several weapons makers among its portfolios of investments, including Connecticut-based firearm maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Virginia-based ammunition manufacturer Olin Corp.

"Biss has been in Springfield for seven years and has done way too little to be a responsible steward of his own investments and the investments of the people of the state of Illinois," Kennedy said.

Biss campaign spokesman Tom Elliott dismissed the critique as "just another ridiculous political stunt by the Kennedy campaign."

But he said Biss would support the divestment from gun and ammunition makers, "just like he supports divesting the pension funds from dirty energy."

That was a reference to a separate divestment call that Biss made in January, in response to a Sun-Times report that identified companies linked to defense, tobacco and oil interests among the investments disclosed on Kennedy's economic interest statement.

"We're still waiting for Pritzker and Kennedy's response to that issue," Elliott said.

Elliott also noted that Biss has sponsored or co-sponsored seven gun control bills, including the gun dealer licensing bill that lawmakers recently sent to Rauner's desk.

Kennedy said it would be "really simple" to remove the investments from the state's portfolios, pointing to New York where something similar was done.

"They just disinvested from the broad category index funds and reinvested in broad category index funds that exclude investments in gun manufacturers," Kennedy said. "There's nothing easier to fix than this problem and we ought to do it immediately."


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