Leahy: Virginia Gets a Dose of Political Theater

Virginia has had a hefty dose of political theater in recent days. That’s usually the case when the General Assembly is in session and lawmakers who yearn for the spotlight take the opportunity to play to the gallery, and maybe the folks back home, too.

But there’s a different strand of theater underway right now that we haven’t seen before — or at least not for decades. It comes in two varieties: Virginia politicians trying to grab a piece of the attention focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and interest groups coming out of the woodwork to support a lawsuit demanding that a federal court call legislative elections this November, rather than waiting for the regularly scheduled elections in 2023.

First up is Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who issued a news release Saturday calling for “decisive action in support of Ukraine.” Fair enough. And it’s apparently such a good idea that Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), who might have to contend with Youngkin in some future Senate contest, agreed actions were required.

What kind of actions? Making sure Russia wasn’t making money off Virginia taxpayers and a more intriguing call for the “Virginia Retirement System Board of Trustees and university endowment funds to divest in a prudent and orderly fashion any and all holdings of the Russian Ruble and any and all securities of Russian companies.”

About those investments:

The VRS’ chief investment officer, Ron Schmitz, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Andrew Cain and Michael Martz there was just “a little tiny bit” of the system’s $107 billion invested in Russian assets. But then he said: “’It would be a terrible time to sell right now,’ said Schmitz, who estimated that the Russian stock market had lost 30% to 40% of its value.”

It’s probably worth substantially less today — if it’s worth anything at all.

But what about the theater? The investment and contracting bit is theatrical. The sums involved, we are told, are small, so the effect of any Virginia divestment would be largely symbolic.

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