It is the kind of political movement that fits handily on a bumper sticker: Divest Iran.
Over the past year, one state, Missouri, has opted to do just that, while several others, including New Jersey, have also begun to write or to consider legislation to divest.
But the nascent movement took on decidedly more weight last week with the preliminary success of a bill in the California Legislature. The measure would force two of the nation's largest pension funds — devoted to the state's public employees and its teachers, with combined holdings of nearly $400 billion — to remove their money from any foreign company doing business in Iran. American companies are already barred from such dealings. ...
"They've got a president that is talking one day about having nuclear bombs and saying he's not the next day, and taking hostages," he said on Friday, referring to the Iranian capture of 15 British sailors and marines. "I'm not saying that we should take a foreign policy stance; I'm saying it's not a good place to invest our money."
Mr. Anderson's language was notably more heated when he introduced the bill in January, raising the specter of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and calling money "the mother's milk of terrorism." ...
Officials at the funds agree that determining which companies might have financial dealings with Iran is a big and often complicated job.
"That's always been the struggle," said Brad Pacheco, a spokesman for the California Public Employees Retirement System, who said the fund had asked the federal government for help in determining which companies were "terror free." "We don't necessarily have the resources or the expertise."
Mr. Pacheco said the public employees' fund, known as Calpers, had no position on the bill yet. But officials with the California State Teachers Retirement System, with holdings of $159 billion, have already suggested they will oppose it.