According to records on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the controversial investment firm Blackrock voted its shares in Braemar Hotels and Resorts in support of Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi to serve as a director of Braemar.
A practicing attorney, Rinaldi has served on the board of Braemar since the company became publicly traded in 2013. In 2022, Rinaldi was paid $95,000 for his services as a Braemar director and received stock awards valued at $84,028 for a total director compensation package of $179,028 that year.
Braemar’s stock closed at $2.40 on January 25, 2024, a more than 88% decrease from when the company began trading publicly. Braemar Hotels and Resorts was formerly known as Ashford Hospitality Prime. Blackrock is currently the largest institutional shareholder in Braemar, owning more than 14% of the company’s outstanding shares.
The Texas Voice reported earlier this week that, under Rinaldi’s leadership, the Republican Party of Texas’ cash on hand has decreased by more than 61% compared to the same time during the 2020 Presidential election cycle.
Blackrock has come under fire from conservatives for its embrace of Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) strategies that critics derided as advancing “woke” liberal culture in the business world. In an interview with Fox Business last year, Blackrock’s CEO Larry Fink said he would stop using the term “ESG” because he believed it had become “weaponized by the far left and weaponized by the far right.”
Republican elected officials in Texas have singled out Blackrock for its promotion of a liberal ideology. In a December 1, 2022 tweet, Governor Greg Abbott stated, “Texas was the first state to ban BlackRock from doing business with our state. I signed a law in 2021 to ban financial companies that have ESG policies that discriminate against the oil & gas sector. That includes BlackRock and several other financial companies.”
In a tweet posted on February 6, 2023, Abbott linked to a Bloomberg News story about Texas pension funds divesting holdings in Blackrock. Abbott tweeted, “Texas’ biggest pension fund has divested its direct ownership stakes in BlackRock Inc. and several other financial firms to comply with a Texas law prohibiting investing in companies deemed to be discriminatory against the oil and gas industry.”
In 2021, state lawmakers targeted ESG policies implemented by Blackrock and other investment firms by passing Senate Bill 13. Under that bill, certain public pension and investment funds are prohibited from investing with financial companies that are found to boycott energy companies. The bill also requires the Texas Comptroller’s office to publish a list of financial companies that have been determined to boycott energy companies.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his most recent list of those blacklisted financial companies last October. The list currently includes 15 financial companies, with Blackrock among the most prominent.
Like Abbott, Hegar has been publicly critical of Blackrock and ESG policies. In a tweet regarding Fink’s abandonment of the term “ESG,” Hegar said, “Larry Fink “ashamed” to be a part of the #ESGscam political debate. Announces @Blackrock will rebrand to “Conscientious Capitalism.” Meanwhile @AnheuserBusch looking to roll out “Diet Bud” @sfof_states @TheBabylonBee.” Hegar also referred to ESG as a “scam” in several other tweets.
Earlier this month, The Texas Voice was the first to report that Rinaldi also works as an attorney for billionaire businessman and major political donor Farris Wilks. Along with his brother Dan Wilks, the Wilks brothers control over 81% of the shares in ProFrac Holding Corp. The company has embraced ESG and Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, including incorporating United Nations sustainable development goals into its ESG program. Farris Wilks’ son, Ladd Wilks, is ProFrac Holding Corp.’s CEO. Farris Wilks has donated millions of dollars to political attack groups such as Defend Texas Liberty and Texans United for a Conservative Majority, which have been involved in smear campaigns against Republican lawmakers who were instrumental in the passage of legislation to rein in ESG policies in businesses and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in higher education.