"This commonwealth, where liberty, freedom and democracy were born, can no longer conduct business as usual with a regime that violates every precept upon which this nation was founded," Casey said.
Casey said he has been unable to find out how much state money is invested in South Africa, although he cited a Harrisburg newspaper article that placed the amount at $2 billion. The investments are primarily stocks purchased with the holdings of two multimillion-dollar pension funds for state employees and teachers.
Even without a clear idea of the amounts involved, Casey said the state would not suffer financially from the move. He said he would urge that the monies be re-invested in Pennsylvania.
"It's not an economic issue," added House Speaker K. Leroy Irvis, D- Allegheny. "You don't talk about how much money is involved to somebody who is dying . . . We, by not divesting, are encouraging their deaths."
Nineteen states and 65 cities, including Philadelphia, have passed divestment legislation. New Jersey, which voted last August to sell $2.75 billion in stocks and bonds, expects to lose $50 million during a three-year phase-out of its holdings, state officials have said.
Casey was joined by several black state legislators whose efforts to pass divestment legislation have been unsuccessful, and by former Philadelphia District Attorney Edward G. Rendell, who lost to Casey in the Democratic primary.
Although Casey insisted the issue should not be a partisan one, he accused his opponent in the governor's race, Lt. Gov. William W. Scranton, of failing to take a stand on divestment of state funds. Casey set up the blast with a quote from Dante's "Inferno": "The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."
Scranton's press secretary, John M. Baer, said Scranton "obviously condemns the system of apartheid in South Africa" and supports divestment of state funds.
Baer said Scranton "is impressed with the divestment efforts of New Jersey Gov. (Thomas) Kean" and that as governor he would work with the General Assembly to develop a similar plan. Kean, like Scranton, is a Republican.
Baer said it is not clear whether the state will suffer economically from withdrawing investments, but added that "moral leadership" far outweighed any economic questions.