A U.S. representative named to a panel overseeing a portion of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill admitted she failed to disclose stock sales while in Congress, a violation of federal law.
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), elected in 2019 after serving as the president of the Clinton Foundation, called what happened a “mistake.”
Under the STOCK Act, members of Congress are required to report stock transactions. But Shalala made a number of sales last year and didn’t report them.
“I missed the deadlines. But I was doing the opposite of insider trading I was getting rid of any conflict of interest in the process. I was unloading the entire portfolio so I could put everything in mutuals and ETFs so I could avoid any conflict of interest,” Shalala told CBS Miami.
“I apologize for them. It was my mistake. And I take full responsibility.”
The lawmaker, who headed the Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, said she knew about the STOCK Act, describing herself as a strong supporter of the law.
But a spokesman sounded a different tune, describing what happened as a “misunderstanding.”
“She had a misunderstanding about the periodic transaction report process and her need to report the sale of these stocks while preparing a blind trust,” Shalala spokesperson Carlos Condarco told the Miami Herald. “As a new member with a broker and attorney who were not familiar with the congressional disclosure rules, there was a misunderstanding.”
Shalala told CBS she notified the House Ethics Committee and would cooperate with an investigation if it commences one.
But the lawmaker refused to step down from the panel overseeing $500 billion in payouts to large businesses affected by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year.
“I don’t think so,” she responded after being asked if her violation of the law disqualified her from serving on the panel.
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Shalala to the position. A spokesperson for Pelosi told Roll Call she would not withdraw Shalala’s nomination.
“Rep. Shalala has taken responsibility for her mistake in missing filings required under the STOCK Act and has been working with the Ethics Committee to address this issue since she became aware of it,” he said.
Two groups demanded Shalala step down from the oversight commission. The Revolving Door Project and Demand Progress Education Fund sent a letter (pdf) to House Democratic leadership urging them to have Shalala resign from the oversight position.
“If Shalala remains on the Congressional Oversight Commission there will be ongoing investigations into the dealings of a leading investigator of the bailout. This is untenable and she must step down now so as to not undermine the Commission’s important work,” David Segal, executive director of the fund, said in a statement.
Shalala faces a primary challenger, Jonathan Marc, while a number of candidates are vying for the Republican Party nomination for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.