Oklahoma Treasurer Todd Russ increases state funds invested in Israel

By: - November 7, 2023 5:29 am

Oklahoma has purchased $62.5 million in Israeli bonds after State Treasurer Todd Russ increased the amount of state funds invested in Jubilee bonds. (Photo by Kyle Phillips/For Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — State Treasurer Todd Russ has increased Oklahoma’s investment in Israeli bonds in light of the country’s war with Hamas militants.

In response to a request from the Israeli government, the Treasurer’s Office purchased a $10 million bond from the country last week, which will bring the state’s total investment to $62.5 million.

The Treasurer’s Office also invested in a $5 million bond in mid-October, after Hamas militants killed about 1,400 people and took at least 200 hostages in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to Russ’ office. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict after Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, killing thousands.

The Treasurer’s Office has invested in Jubilee bonds from Israel since 2007.

“As a trusted source of investment, issuing new bonds to Israel during the current wake of attacks will help rebuild Israel’s economy and future of one of our greatest allies,” Russ said in a news release. As state treasurer, Russ is responsible for investing Oklahoma’s $5 billion portfolio.

Lara Blubaugh, digital media coordinator for the Treasurer’s Office, said the state has long invested in Israeli bonds because the financial terms are attractive.

Jubilee bond rates are more lucrative than bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury, and they’re always paid on time and in full, she said.

The state purchases bonds from other countries as well, although Blubaugh said she didn’t have a list of all of Oklahoma’s foreign investments. In the last budget year, the Treasurer’s Office invested $173 million in foreign bonds, she said.

Russ’ office has been tasked with implementing a new law that bars the state from working with banks deemed hostile to the oil and natural gas industries. Critics of the law that targets financial institutions with environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies have accused state officials of playing politics with public funds.

Blubaugh said there’s no correlation between the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act and the Israeli bonds.

“For the ESG piece, we have been given a new law that we are trying to figure out,” she said. This law wasn’t made for us, it was given to us. As far as this bond for Israel, this is definitely for the merits of the deal. It’s a good investment. It’s good for our portfolio.”

Russ, a former state lawmaker, voted in favor of the anti-ESG law when he was in the Oklahoma Legislature.

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Carmen Forman
Carmen Forman

Carmen covers state government, politics and health care from Oklahoma City. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.