It’s no secret that most members of Congress are well-off financially before they ever come to Capitol Hill. Regardless of political party, many were businesspeople or lawyers first. More than half of Congress have a net worth that makes them millionaires.
While this may not shock you, it does raise concerns that the typical congressman does not experience the world in the same was their constituents do. In the latest edition of the Drill Down podcast, Peter Schweizer and Eric Eggers discuss what we can – and can’t – learn from congressional financial disclosure statements our lawmakers are required to fill out.
A few years ago Schweizer wrote a book called “Throw Them All Out” that revealed that several congressmen were making stock trades based on inside information they got from committee hearings. A law called the “STOCK Act” was passed to stop that sort of thing, requiring members to disclose their stock trades within 45 days. Insider trading allegations still come up, however.
Paul Pelosi is a big fan of Amazon stock. He has made millions by buying options on Amazon’s stock, often with uncanny timing related to Amazon’s bids for a government cloud hosting contract, known as the “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure” program (JEDI). Breitbart News reviewed Pelosi’s financial disclosure reports dating back to 2009 and found that the speaker’s husband has a history of purchasing Amazon call options around JEDI program-related milestones in the past.” If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House.
Early last year, two Republican senators were brought before the Senate Ethics Committee over allegations they had used information they received during confidential briefings on the emerging COVID-19 virus to sell stocks in advance of a stock market downturn caused by the economic shutdowns the virus precipitated.
Then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is married to the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, began selling stock shortly after the briefing. They eventually unloaded $3 million worth in 27 separate transactions. Two days after the Senate received a classified briefing on the coronavirus, Loeffler’s husband Jeffrey Sprecher sold $3.5 million dollars’ worth of his own company. The insider-trading investigation was dismissed.
Senator Richard Burr received a private briefing on how other countries were dealing with the effects of the global pandemic. Burr, who also sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee received another briefing on February 12th. The very next day, Senator Burr sold 33 stock holdings worth between $600,000 and $1.7 million dollars. Had he not made those trades, Burr’s portfolio would have been down by 30 percent within weeks. He later resigned as the Senate Intelligence Committee chair.
Nothing to see here, folks.
Peter and Eric also get into the congressmen who publish books. Sen. Bernie Sanders made $2 million between 2016 and 2017 from a book he wrote. But he doesn’t touch Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who made $3.4 million from her own book deals in recent years. She just signed a new book deal in May. Book deals are the one type of side-gig a sitting member of Congress can legally have. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to hear even more from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders?