(The Center Square) – Illinois’ treasurer is asking the nation’s top money managers not to donate to Republicans who objected to the certification of the 2020 election results, a move one critic said was a taxpayer-funded political bludgeon.

Treasurer Michael Frerichs defended signing a letter last month with other fiduciaries asking the nation’s top money managers to refrain from donating to 147 members of Congress who objected to certifying the 2020 election results on Jan. 6.

“There are a variety of people pushing lies about government, lies about our elections, destroying trust in our government, destroying trust in that process, which is destabilizing to our country,” Frerichs said Monday.

Last month’s letter – spearheaded by the nonprofit Majority Action and health care union SEIU – went to Vanguard, State Street, Fidelity, JPMorgan Asset Management and BNY Mellon last month. The funds donated $1 million to members of Congress who objected to the election results. Frerichs signed letters only to Vanguard, Fidelity and State Street.

“Will State Street forswear corporate political spending (direct or indirect) to the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of a free and fair democratic election on January 6th, 2021?” the letter to State Street said.

Members of Congress, by law, can raise objections to election certification, as was done Jan. 6, 2020. The objections found support in the U.S. Senate, but were not sustained. Certification of the electoral college was temporarily delayed because of the riots at the Capitol Building.

Asked if he’d urge the money managers not to support Democratic members of Congress who objected to the certification of President Donald Trump’s election win in 2017, Frerichs said he wouldn't.

“In 2017, there were peaceful protests, there were not riots, there were not attacks on our … nation’s capital,” Frerichs said.

Combined, the signatories of the letters to the investment firms manage around $1 trillion of public funds.

Wirepoints founder Mark Glennon said there was violence across the country over the past four years and Democratic officials fueled skepticism of the 2016 outcome for years. He said Frerichs’ letter was a veiled political threat that used taxpayer resources.

“We all know that there’s too much money in politics, but this is an attempt by partisans to control that money and force it only into their coffers,” Glennon said.

Glennon said the letter seems designed to leverage taxpayer resources to chill political speech supporting Republicans.

“It’s nakedly partisan and it’s an attempt to force corporations to not make political contributions to [Republican], and to [Republicans] alone,” Glennon said.

As treasurer, Frerichs manages tens of billions of dollars the state manages for investment returns. He used a news conference Monday to tout $1 billion in returns he’s achieved in the past 5 years.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.