- Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal recently disclosed that an investment fund managed by his wife’s family bought between $1 million and $2 million in tech company stocks, including shares in Intel.
- Blumenthal’s disclosure came three weeks before a Senate hearing where Intel’s CEO backed legislation handing billions in subsidies to the semiconductor industry.
- Five days after the hearing, Blumenthal voted in favor of the America COMPETES Act, which grants $52 billion in subsidies to the semiconductor industry.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal disclosed in early March that an investment fund managed by his wife’s family purchased between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of Intel stock. A little over three weeks later, he voted for legislation handing billions in subsidies tosemiconductor manufacturers that could benefit Intel.
The senator’s actions seem to indicate a conflict of interest, congressional watchdogs told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Blumenthal’s financial interests appear intertwined with companies he oversees, they said.
“This is another example why there is strong public support for restricting stock purchases by senators and House members,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “And, by the way, ‘disclosing’ conflicts doesn’t erase them.”
On March 3, Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, disclosed to the Senate Ethics Committee that an investment fund controlled by his wife’s family bought between $1 million and $2 million in tech company stocks. Shares valued at between $250,000 and $500,000 of Google parent company Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel were purchased in January, according to the disclosure.
Blumenthal’s fund bought the Intel shares roughly two months before its CEO Patrick Gelsinger joined other tech executives on Capitol Hill to testify in favor of legislation that would pump billions of dollars into domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
Intel is one of the world’s largest semiconductor producers, and operates manufacturing and R&D facilities across the U.S. As such, Intel stands to benefit from the America COMPETES Act, which would provide $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and research.
Already, several states are granting generous subsidies to chip makers, including Intel. Ohio recently announced more than $2 billion in incentives to Intel to build two factories in Licking County, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Intel is investing $20 billion into the Ohio facilities.
At the hearing, Gelsinger mentioned how foreign governments have granted Intel and other companies subsidies to manufacture semiconductors, and he urged senators to bolster “critical technology” that will “break great ground.”
“I want to go bigger and faster,” Gelsinger said at the hearing, calling lawmakers to pass the legislation.
Five days later, the America COMPETES Act passed the Senate in a 68 to 28 vote. Blumenthal voted in favor of it.
Blumenthal is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He has claimed to not own “individual stocks,” even though watchdog experts say there is no distinction between his family or himself owning the shares, since he must disclose the holdings anyway.
Blumenthal has faced scrutiny for his past stock dealings.
The Blumenthal family fund bought and sold shares of Robinhood, the stock trading platform, on behalf of the senator and his wife in 2021. The senator disclosed the trades after the reporting deadline, which violates federal law. Around the same time, Blumenthal was calling for investigations into Robinhood for temporarily shutting down consumer trading of GameStop.
After what happened last week with GameStop trading, investigation by consumer protectors & Congress seems necessary—& then legislative reform.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 1, 2021
“Anytime a senator is buying and selling stocks in companies that they oversee, especially at the committee level, it raises red flags,” Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), told TheDCNF. “Where a senator’s personal financial interests create even the perception that he cannot act impartially, then a conflict of interest exists.”
In February, FACT filed a complaint against Blumenthal for failing to disclose the Robinhood stock trades in a timely manner. However, it does not appear the Senate Ethics Committee ever officially investigated the matter.
“Both not timely disclosing stock trades and trading stock in companies that overlap with a senator’s official duties should raise serious concerns for the American people,” said Arnold.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the progressive group Public Citizen, told TheDCNF it is “extremely alarming” that members of Congress and their spouses continue to trade stocks given their access to confidential information that comes through congressional briefings.
“Members, spouses, and dependent children must be prohibited altogether from trading on the stock market to avoid the actuality or the appearance of congressional insider trading,” said Holman.
The Senate Ethics Committee did not respond to a request for comment. Blumenthal’s office did respond to TheDCNF, but did not answer a question about why some experts see the Blumenthal family’s stock buy ahead of the March vote as problematic.
“Senator Blumenthal believes America needs to break China’s grip on the semiconductor market and establish an American made supply chain for chips,” spokeswoman Maria McElwain said in an email.
Tech companies, including Intel, have lent a hand to Blumenthal’s political ambitions. Intel contributed $2,500 to the senator’s leadership PAC in 2020, according to Federal Election Commission records. Amazon gave $5,000 to Blumenthal’s 2016 campaign. Since 2016, Microsoft has given Blumenthal’s leadership PAC and campaign $16,000.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top Democrats have pushed for hundreds of billions to go toward semiconductor research and development.
The House approved the America COMPETES Act in February. Both chambers must now reconcile the differences between their respective versions of the bill before its final passage.
In May, President Joe Biden urged Congress to “pass the damn bill.” The White House has called the bill “bipartisan,” despite the fact it passed largely along party lines, getting just one Republican vote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy referred to the House bill as the “America Concedes Act.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it will not pass without Democrats making “major concessions and changes.”
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