The chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seems to have broken federal law and broken it pretty severely — but don’t expect her to see much punishment as a result.
According to a Fox News report Tuesday, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, who heads the DCCC, failed to report up to $5.5 million in stock sales in the time allotted under federal law.
Not only that, the disclosures w
In a June 14 filing, DelBene reported that she and her husband had sold stock in tech giant Microsoft in two separate transactions on Aug. 30, 2022, and March 1, 2023.
The stock sale was worth somewhere between $1.25 million and $5.5 million, according to the report; members of Congress aren’t required to disclose exact figures under law.
ere made long after the deadline had expired.
However, what members of Congress are required to do is to report securities purchases or sales no later than 45 days after they or their spouse make them under the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.
For those of you with a Common Core math education, let me assure you that, in neither case, did DelBene hit the deadline. The March 1 transaction was reported 105 days after it was made, the August 2022 transaction 288 days after it was made.
“Members of Congress from both parties are missing these deadlines and not disclosing transactions when they’re supposed to according to the law, which in and of itself, from a first principle standpoint, is a really bad thing because you have lawmakers who are not following the law that they made,” Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, the government affairs manager at the Project on Government Oversight, told Fox News.
“Oftentimes, if you aggregate members of Congress’ trades and transactions, they tend to over-perform the rest of us and over-perform the market,” he added.
“There is definitely the appearance of impropriety and the appearance of potential corruption there that is corrosive to public trust in Congress and individual members of Congress. So, it’s a big problem,” Hedtler-Gaudette said.
Unfortunately, don’t expect this to pose any problem for DelBene — or any other Congress member who fails to comply with the law.
What happened to them? Virtually nothing.
“While lawmakers who violate the STOCK Act face a fine, the penalty is usually small — $200 is the standard amount — or waived by House or Senate ethics officials. Ethics watchdogs and even some members of Congress have called for stricter penalties or even a ban on federal lawmakers from trading individual stocks,” the report said.
“On Capitol Hill, lawmakers seriously debated such a ban, with a vote on a consensus bill seemingly imminent during early autumn. But Democrats, who enjoyed majorities in the House and Senate through January 2023, did not press legislation forward, and a bill to ban lawmakers from trading stocks ultimately died.”
In other words, the STOCK Act supplies yet more proof that Congress likes enacting legislation with too-cute acronyms much more than solving the problem that legislation was designed to address.
Business Insider noted that the 78 members who violated the STOCK Act, when commenting on the offenses, “offer excuses including ignorance of the law, clerical errors, and mistakes by an accountant.” And — wouldn’t you know it — so did Rep. DeBene!
According to the congresswoman, the transactions happened after her husband — a former top executive at Microsoft — was confirmed to a senior role at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“In March 2022, the DelBenes disclosed a forward contract, which put in place a self-executing stock sale schedule at a set price related to compensation from Mr. DelBene’s previous employment,” a DelBene representative said in a statement to Fox News. “This forward contract was drafted by ethics experts and approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The entirety of the contract was disclosed over a year ago and it has not been altered since. The DelBenes cannot adjust or initiate any actions related to the forward contract.
“These transactions fall under the original forward contract but are being reported separately in the interest of transparency after consulting with the House Ethics Committee and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
This jumble of legalese, while indeed very well crafted, still doesn’t offer a cogent excuse for the DelBenes’ inability to make the deadline, according to Cedric Payne, vice president and general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.
“The member missed the deadline for paying the stock transaction. That part is clear,” Payne told Fox News.
“The constant violations of the law show that the disclosure requirement is not enough,” he added. “The members cannot comply with the filing deadline and sometimes you still have the appearance of conflicts of interest. Therefore, there needs to be [restrictions] where members are not allowed to own individual stocks.”
What’s ironic is that DelBene is one of the members who signed onto the Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust, or (sigh) TRUST, Act, which would ban members of Congress or their spouses from trading individual stocks.
Whether that gets passed is anyone’s guess — but while signing onto the bill may have made DelBene look good, that doesn’t mean she has to like it, believe in it or act accordingly.