California

California state pension invests millions in Chinese state-owned companies, including those blacklisted by Trump admin

California state pension invests millions in Chinese
state-owned companies, including those blacklisted by Trump
admin 1

SACRAMENTO, CA- In just under two weeks, voters in the State of California will have the opportunity to launch their incompetent governor, Gavin Newsom, into an early retirement.

They might also want to consider getting rid of their state treasurer, Fiona Ma, daughter of Chinese immigrants.

Why? Well for one thing, the state’s pension system is heavily invested, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese-state owned enterprises linked to the People’s Liberation Army, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

According to the outlet, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) invested over $3 billion…that’s billion with a B…in Chinese companies, including 14 state-controlled enterprises that were blacklisted by former President Trump’s administration in June 2020. That amount is currently some $490 million. 

A number of those companies are funding the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative,” a massive infrastructure undertaking underway by China in order to “expand its geopolitical and military influence.”

Newsom actually recently praised a pro-Beijing newspaper which was required to register as a foreign agent of China due to its influence activities in the United States.

The paper, Sing Tao was praised for its “journalistic integrity” and for its provision of “balanced news stories to its readers. Newsom said the paper, published daily in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City has assisted Chinese Americans in acclimating to California.

The paper’s owners are members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a government advisory group controlled by—the Chinese Communist Party.

The paper has also been praised by the official bartender of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and she used the paper to advertise in April 2021 in the amount of $728 for ads pushing the jab, and $2,755 in June 2020, according to FEC filings.

The Democratic National Committee has also used the outlet to advertise, placing ads in May to raise awareness about hate crimes against the AAPI community. Not to be left out, the Republican National Committee also paid $2,855 to the paper in November 2020.

Fellow recall candidate San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has also sung the praises of Sing Tao, speaking at their gala. Boudin received an endorsement from Sing Tao during his George Soros-funded campaign in 2019.

In addressing the CalPERS investments, Newsom has remained silent. This is an interesting take by Newsom because he has been more than outspoken on CalPERS investments, calling for the nation’s largest public pension system to divest from tobacco companies as well as companies linked to the Turkish government.

CalPERS’s investments in the 14 Chinese companies defied Trump’s listing of the companies on the so-called blacklist due to their ties to the Chinese military.

CalPERS declined the Free Beacon’s requests for comment on their investments in the Chinese companies. In addition to those companies on the blacklist, CalPERS is invested to the tune of $490 million in seven Chinese state-owned companies which while not appearing on the list are funding the Belt and Road Initiative, according to its 2020 investment report. The pension fund has been investing in some of the Chinese companies at least since 2016, according to records.

The Beacon reported that two companies in the fund’s portfolio—China Merchants Port and CITIC—control ports in Sri Lanka and Myanmar which have been utilized by the People’s Liberation Army for military exercises. Those investments included $3.7 million in China Merchants Port and $110 million in CITIC as of June 2020.

CalPERS is also invested $5 million in China State Construction Co., which has built infrastructure such as roads and bridges in Asia, Africa and the United States as part of the Belt and Road initiative. That company is one of the firms put on Trump’s blacklist.

CalPERS, which boasts some $400 billion in assets, has $6 million invested in China Communications Construction Company, owned by the Chinese government and which the U.S. says is building military installations in the South China Sea. That undertaking is in violation of agreements China has signed with its neighbors. According to former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, that company is one of the “weapons” Beijing uses to impose it’s “expansionist agenda.”

Belt and Road seems to be the primary beneficiary of California’s pension dollars, with $185 million invested in China Construction Bank, which has invested $405 billion into 176 Belt and Road project. Two other lenders, China Merchants Bank and Bank of China, also contained in the CalPERS portfolio are also heavily invested in Belt and Road projects.

The investments in China have drawn strict scrutiny not only from California lawmakers but also national ones. Critics of the investments complain that the investments not only aid the Chinese Communist Party but create a financial risk due to lax transparency into the operations of Chinese firms.

“CalPERS would do well on its own to reconsider some of its billions of dollars of investments in China just for the fact that immediate international turmoil produced large uncertainties for California retirees,” said Lance Christensen, chief operating officer at the California Policy Center, a conservative think tank.

Some of this may be changing however as some investment managers are beginning to think twice about investments in China due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on tech companies as well as other for-profit companies.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in July, Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges lost $400 billion in value due to a series of regulatory crackdowns orchestrated by the Chinese communist government.

Aside from the China connection to the state treasurer, there is also a connection to the former head of CalPERS, Ben Meng, an American citizen of Chinese origin. Prior to his work at CalPERS, he worked in China as the deputy chief investment officer of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, where he oversaw $3 trillion of foreign exchange reserves.

At the time Meng served at CalPERS, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) criticized his membership in China’s Thousand Talents Program, which the nation uses for espionage. Banks wrote Newsom recommending Meng’s firing.

“Governor Newsom, if it were up to me, I would fire Mr. Meng immediately,” Banks wrote in February 2020.

Banks’ issue came specifically to companies such as Hikvision, which is used by China to further its detention of Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps.

CalPERS blew off Banks’ letter, calling it a “politically opportunistic attempt to force us to divest, undermining our ability to perform our fiduciary duty to provide retirement security to California’s public employees.”

Newsom may not directly control CalPERS, but he has in the past used his position of governor to steer the agency’s decisions, for example forcing the pension manager to invest pension funds in green energy companies in order to fight “climate change.”

In an absolutely ironic twist of irony, in 2018 as a governor’s candidate, Newsom demanded CalPERS divest from Turkish companies because of the Turkish regime’s refusal to recognize the mass murder of Armenians in 1915. So in other words, 100-year-old Armenian genocide is bad, but 2018 genocide of Christians and Muslim Uyghurs in China is ok. Odd.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom is quick to leverage his position on issues like climate change by outlawing gas-powered cars or other similar mandates, but slow to speak out on government investments in China, where their environmental and labor record is abysmal,” said Christensen of the California Policy Center.

The Free Beacon said the governor’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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For more reasons why Newsom needs to be recalled and replaced, we invite you to read our prior report on Newsom playing fast and loose with COVID relief money. 

DIG DEEPER

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- Just remember—two sets of rules. In an explosive report from ABC-7 in San Francisco, it has come forth that at least eight companies owned or partially owned by California Gov. Gavin Newsom received millions of dollars between them from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to an analysis by the station.

Data released by the Small Business Administration earlier this summer indicated the PlumpJack Group had received $350,000 worth of PPP loans.

However, newly released data showed that a group of PlumpJack businesses under that umbrella had received more than eight times that amount, or around $3 million combined. Those businesses include wineries, bars and restaurants.

Two years ago, Newsom put his ownership interests in the PlumpJack group into a blind trust. That allegedly means that he wouldn’t have knowledge of or a role in the company’s business decisions made during his time in office, the outlet reported.

According to the Daily Wire, ABC7’s 9’s investigative unit, the I-Team said that it “discovered discrepancies” which “appear to raise questions” about how much money had found its way into Newsom’s business interests. PlumpJack Group was founded by Newsom in 1992.

Despite the blind trust, Newsom’s sister, Hillary currently serves as the group’s president.

The I-Team reported:

“While data released by the Small Business Administration earlier this year showed the PlumpJack Group received up to $350,000 worth of PPP loans, newly-released data by the SBA indicated PlumpJack businesses—including wineries, bars and restaurants—received more than eight times that amount at nearly $3 million altogether…ABC7’s analysis found at least nine companies affiliated with the PlumpJack Group received PPP loans.

One of the companies on the lists is Villa Encinal Partners Limited Partnership. State records indicate the name is traced back to the PlumpJack winery in Napa. San Francisco billionaire Gordon Getty is an investor.

According to SBA data, the company received a loan for $918,720 on April 14, 2020.”

According to data uncovered by ABC7, Villa Encinal Partners LP retained 14 employees with those funds. Upon crunching the numbers, the outlet found:

“Hypothetically, if divided equally, each of them would’ve received around $40,000 to cover their payroll over a period of three months—that would amount to an annual salary of around $160,000 per employee.”

According to the requirements of the PPP program, recipients of PPP loans are able to receive forgiveness if at least 60% of the funding is used to keep workers on the payroll.

ABC7 noted that if the PlumpJack Group decides to pursue loan forgiveness, they would have between two to five years to apply. Short of that, the group would be required to repay the loan at a fixed 1% annual percentage rate.

Miryam Barajas, SBA Region 9 Communications Director said however in order for a company to seek loan forgiveness, “they have to certify when they apply that they retained their employees.”

She continued:

“That’s going to include payroll records, documentation filings, there’s a lot of proof that these businesses have to show proving they paid their employees.”  

The station presented their findings to Seth Moulton, who is a senior policy analyst with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and organization that tracks PPP loans.

“It’s unexpected for a 14-employee organization to get nearly $1 million,” Moulton told ABC7. “The purpose behind this program was to save entry-level jobs, people going in and working on that paycheck. That was what we put this out there for, to stop unemployment.”

ABC7 further reported:

“The average small business loan for California companies retaining 14 employees was roughly $128,000. Yet the PlumpJack entity Villa Encinal Partners LP—that according to SBA data also retained 14 employees—received more than seven times that amount at $981,720.

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LET Unity

ABC7’s analysis found the only other California winery that received close to the same loan amount as Villa Encinal Partners LP is Oak Knoll Farming Corp, which retained 79 employees—more than five times as many as Villa. The average number of employees retained for every California winery that received ore than $900,000 worth of PPP funding is 148.”

ABC7 cited the Millbrae Pancake House, which received a $431,400 loan, while retaining 53 employees. They noted for comparison purposes, that’s less than half the amount of money PlumpJack received while retaining nearly four times the number of employees.

The owner of the restaurant told ABC7:

“That seems unfair because there are small family businesses like ours that need that money,” said Erin Burke.

She was forced to close the business on Nov. 29 after 60 years of operation.

“We’re just trying to do the best that we can and survive,” she said. “That money wasn’t enough.”

This situation becomes even more disturbing when you see that a number of small businesses desperate for financial support had a difficult time obtaining the PPP loans, with some being unable to do so. According to the Los Angeles Times, the program ceased accepting applications in August after some $68.6 billion had been directed to 623,000 California companies.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said that a majority of small businesses that were unable to get the PPP loans said the loan size wasn’t enough, or the owner misunderstood the application process.

“I think it’s heartbreaking,” said Jay Cheng, the organization’s public policy director.

“We see huge discrepancies between small business and the kind of loans they go and their ability to get loans and larger companies that are well-resourced and well-staffed and had strong relationships with their banks.”

Yet another company affiliated with Newsom’s business interest is Balboa Café Partners LP, which received a $506,799 loan on April 29, 2020. It was estimated in June that the company employed seven individuals, however SBA filings from the loan application stated they retained 55 employees.

The outlet said they reached out to PlumpJack for clarification on how the funds were spent. They issued the following statement:

“Like many other companies facing extreme financial duress during the pandemic, we used loan monies to protect our workers and keep them employed Our staff members and their loved ones depended on these programs for their livelihoods. Gavin Newsom is not affiliated with the operation of the companies in any way. Any suggestion otherwise is unequivocally false,” said Jeff Nead, spokesperson for the PlumpJack Management Group.

Newsom’s 2019 Statement of Economic Interest said, however that Newsom has an ownership interest in eight companies that are affiliated with PlumpJack which received PPP funding.

According to CalMatters, Newsom’s 2018 tax returns showed he and his wife made $1.2 million from wages and investments—a majority of which came from the wine and hospitality ventures. The outlet reached out a second time to PlumpJack in an effort to obtain payroll record to determine how each of 14 employees of Villa Encinal Partners was paid.

They received the following statement:

“Plumpjack Management Group is operating within the federal guidelines created for COVID-19 SBA loan recipients. These funds have been critical in keeping our staff employed and continuing our operations. Any implication that we have done anything outside of the guidelines (or that we have filed for forgiveness on the loan) is irresponsible,” said Nead once again.

ABC 7 said they reached out to Newsom for comment but did not hear back.

Color us shocked.

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