Tag Archives: president-elect

Extensive stock trading by Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services raises questions

Public Citizen says the Office of Congressional Ethics and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should look more closely at the stock trading activity of U.S. Reps. Tom Price of Georgia and Chris Collins of New York for conflicts of interest and possible insider trading.

Price is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Extensive stock trading activity in industries that Price and Collins oversee as congressmen, and unusually good timing and financial benefits of those stock trades, raise red flags about the potential use of insider information,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The public information available falls short of hard evidence of insider trading, but the patterns of trading activity certainly warrant further investigation to determine if it occurred.”

Since 2009, according to congressional financial disclosure reports, Price has conducted over 630 trades on the stock market, many of which involve the pharmaceutical and health care sectors that he oversees as chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee and as a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

Price’s colleague Collins also is a prolific trader of health care investments on the stock market, according to news and disclosure reports.

Collins, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, is a board member and the largest shareholder of a major biotech company, Australia’s Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited — a company in which both Price and Collins made major stock purchases within days of each other, according to financial disclosure reports.

“Collins purchased 4 million shares in August in the company whose board he sits on , and Price followed up with his own major stock purchase in the company two days later,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The stock value doubled in the three months following their investments. That’s quite good luck. This is worthy of investigation to determine whether any wrongful conduct occurred.”

Since passage of the STOCK Act in 2012, members of Congress have been subject to the same laws against insider trading that apply to everyone else. Additionally, congressional ethics rules warn members to avoid substantial conflicts of interest that may cast aspersions on the integrity of their office. Rules also mandate that members may not use their office for personal gain.

Public Citizen’s letter asks that the OCE and SEC investigate the stock trading activity of Price and Collins for potential violations of insider trading laws and conflict of interest rules and regulations.

On the Web

Read Public Citizen’s letter.

Uber, SpaceX, Tesla, PepsiCo execs join Trump team

Elon Musk, the chairman and chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, as well as Uber Technologies CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick and PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi have joined President-elect Donald Trump’s advisory council.

Trump’s transition team announced the development on Wednesday.

The group, which includes numerous other top business leaders, aims to give industry input on the private sector to Trump, according to the transition team.

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A look at who was expected to attend a gathering of leaders of some of the largest technology companies at Trump’s New York headquarters on Wednesday.

The session was being billed as an introductory meeting.

Those expected to attend include:

* CEO Larry Page of Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company

* Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook

* Facebook Inc COO Sheryl Sandberg

* Amazon.com Inc CEO Jeff Bezos

* Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk

* Microsoft Corp CEO Satya Nadella

* Oracle Corp CEO Safra Catz

In addition, the technology news website Recode reported that Intel Corp executives were invited. An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported Palantir Technologies Inc CEO Alex Karp would also attend the meeting.

Trump’s stock in Dakota Access pipeline company raises concern

Donald Trump holds stock in the company building the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline, and pipeline opponents warn his investments could affect any decision he makes on the $3.8 billion project as president.

Concern about Trump’s possible conflicts comes amid protests that unfold daily along the proposed pipeline route.

The dispute over the route has intensified in recent weeks, with total arrests since August rising to 528.

A recent clash near the main protest camp in North Dakota left a police officer and several protesters injured.

Trump’s most recent federal disclosure forms, filed in May, show he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. That’s down from between $500,000 and $1 million a year earlier.

Trump also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.

While Trump’s stake in the pipeline company is modest compared with his other assets, ethics experts say it’s among dozens of potential conflicts that could be resolved by placing his investments in a blind trust, a step Trump has resisted.

The Obama administration said this month it wants more study and tribal input before deciding whether to allow the partially built pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota.

The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry oil across four states to a shipping point in Illinois. The project has been held up while the Army Corps of Engineers consults with the Standing Rock Sioux, who believe the project could harm the tribe’s drinking water and Native American cultural sites.

The delay raises the likelihood that a final decision will be made by Trump, a pipeline supporter who has vowed to “unleash” unfettered production of oil and gas. He takes office in January.

“Trump’s investments in the pipeline business threaten to undercut faith in this process — which was already frayed — by interjecting his own financial well-being into a much bigger decision,” said Sharon Buccino, director of the land and wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

“This should be about the interests of the many, rather than giving the appearance of looking at the interests of a few — including Trump,” Buccino said.

Trump, a billionaire who has never held public office, holds ownership stakes in more than 500 companies worldwide.

He has said he plans to transfer control of his company to three of his adult children, but ethics experts have said conflicts could engulf the new administration if Trump does not liquidate his business holdings.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, called Trump’s investment in the pipeline company “disturbing” and said it fits a pattern evident in Trump’s transition team.

“You have climate (change) deniers, industry lobbyists and energy conglomerates involved in that process,” Grijalva said. “The pipeline companies are gleeful. This is pay-to-play at its rawest.”

A spokeswoman for Trump, Hope Hicks, provided a statement about conflicts of interest to The Associated Press on Friday: “We are in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump as well as a team of highly skilled executives. This is a top priority at the organization and the structure that is ultimately selected will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”

Besides Trump, at least two possible candidates for energy secretary also could benefit from the pipeline. Oil billionaire Harold Hamm could ship oil from his company, Continental Resources, through the pipeline, while former Texas Gov. Rick Perry serves on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners.

North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, along with GOP Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, called on President Barack Obama to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the pipeline crossing, the last large segment of the nearly completed pipeline.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Dallas-based Energy Transfer, told The Associated Press that he expects Trump to make it easier for his company and others to complete infrastructure projects.

“Do I think it’s going to get easier? Of course,” said Warren, who donated $3,000 to Trump’s campaign, plus $100,000 to a committee supporting Trump’s candidacy and $66,800 to the Republican National Committee.

“If you’re in the infrastructure business,” he said, “you need consistency. That’s where this process has gotten off track.”

The Army Corps of Engineers granted Warren’s company the permits needed for the crossing in July, but the agency decided in September that further analysis was warranted, given the tribe’s concerns. On Nov. 14, the corps called for even more study.

The company has asked a federal judge to declare it has the right to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota. The judge isn’t likely to issue a decision until January at the earliest.

Secretary Kerry: Obama’s climate change targets won’t be reversed

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a stirring appeal on Nov. 16 to all countries — including his own — to press ahead with the fight against climate change, saying a failure to do so would be a “betrayal of devastating consequences.”

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Kerry’s speech at the U.N. climate talks was partly aimed at the Republican president-elect who has called global warming a “hoax” and has pledged to “cancel” the Paris deal limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

“No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input,” Kerry said.

With 2016 on track to be the hottest year on record, Kerry said the impacts of global warming are now evident across the world with record-breaking droughts, rising sea levels, unusual storms and millions of people displaced by weather events.

“At some point even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening,” he said.

The U.S. election outcome has created deep uncertainty about the U.S. role in international climate talks — and about the Paris Agreement adopted last year by more than 190 countries. But Kerry said the U.S. was already in the midst of a clean energy transition that would continue regardless of policy-making.

“I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now today on our way to meeting all of the international targets we have set,” Kerry said. “Because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed.”

The Obama administration pledged during the Paris negotiations to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Bill Hare, director of the Climate Analytics research group, said the U.S. in on the right path toward meeting its target “but a bit more is needed to get there.”

He said if Trump dismantles Obama policies such as the Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan, then U.S. emissions would stay at current levels instead of decrease.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, said clean energy and efficiency investments by U.S. businesses and consumers are likely to keep American emissions falling overall.

However, he added that “most analysts believe it will take additional government policies that Trump is highly unlikely to pursue to meet the sharper emissions cuts the U.S. has pledged by 2025 under the Paris agreement.”

Kerry said an “overwhelming majority” of Americans know that climate change is happening and support the U.S. commitments under the Paris deal.

Falling short in the fight against climate change would be a “moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences,” he said.

Kerry said climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue and noted that military and intelligence leaders have recognized its potential as a “threat-multiplier.”

He asked leaders in all parts of the world, “including my own,” to inform themselves about climate change by talking to scientists, economists, business leaders and other experts.

“I ask you on behalf of billions of people around the world … do your own diligence before making irrevocable choices,” he said.

Paraguay’s president-elect apologizes for anti-gay slurs

Paraguay’s president-elect, Horacio Cartes, said on April 22 that he’ll urge the Congress to approve Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur, and he apologized for making anti-gay comments during the campaign.

A millionaire businessman, Cartes said he transferred his interests in his dozens of companies before the campaign began to avoid conflicts of interests after he takes office Aug. 15.

Cartes said his sister Sarah now runs the family’s businesses, which include vast plantations of soy, tobacco and ranching to a soft drink distributor, Paraguay’s Banco Amambay and the nation’s championship football team, Libertad.

“In our government there won’t be anything that isn’t in the public interest, and none of my relatives will be in the administration,” Cartes said at his first news conference, the day after winning the presidency with nearly 46 percent of the vote against six competitors.

Cartes, 56, is one of Paraguay’s biggest employers and revenue producers. His tobacco company alone pays $146 million a year in taxes to the government.

But he’s faced allegations of a darker side to his businesses. The newspaper ABC in Asuncion published an article recently describing seizures of marijuana and cocaine on his properties. A secret 2007 U.S. Embassy cable, published online by WikiLeaks, reported to Washington that Hugo Ibarra, Paraguay’s drug czar at the time, alleged that Cartes and Banco Amambay were responsible for 80 percent of money laundering in Paraguay.

Asked on April 22 if he’s involved in money laundering, drugs or cigarette smuggling, Cartes said: “Go to judicial power and check. There’s nothing, there’s not a single complaint against me. I’ve been a public figure for years in football, but as soon as I enter politics, all these stories surface, spread by bad people.”

His victory will return the conservative Colorado Party to the presidency it held for 61 years before former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was swept into office in 2008 on promises of land reform. A bloody struggle over land gave the Colorados and their allies the ammunition they needed to impeach the left-leaning Lugo last year, before his five-year term was over.

While that impeachment followed Paraguay’s constitution, its neighbors called it a threat to democracy and suspended Paraguay’s membership in the Mercosur bloc. Then, the leaders of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay took advantage of Paraguay’s absence to bring Venezuela into the trade group against Paraguay’s wishes.

Cartes said it’s time to mend fences.

“This friendly tone is important. The suspension of Paraguay in Mercosur and Unasur belongs to another political context. I want to look ahead. Venezuela is a huge market,” he said. “My thoughts on this are known to the lawmakers of my party who will take seats in the new Congress.”

Cartes’ conciliatory position contrasted with that of Jose Antonio Moreno, who leads the Colorado Party’s foreign relations commission.

“The punishment dictated in June was unjust and illegal because impeachment is a constitutional act and Paraguay did not violate any democratic principles,” Moreno said. Instead, it’s Mercosur that “should resolve what to do with Venezuela, whose entry was illegal because it lacked the approval of Paraguay.”

Cartes also referred to anti-gay comments he had made, saying: “I have no shame in apologizing to those who felt offended for an expression of mine with respect to same-sex marriage.”

During the campaign, Cartes, saying marriage should only be between a man and a woman, said, “Everyone should live within the rules. If not, we’d be like the monkeys that swing in the trees.”