Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and at least three other federal lawmakers have sold their holdings in companies tied to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Center for Public Integrity learned ahead of today’s disclosure of 2009 personal financial records by all members of Congress.
According to an analysis by the Center, 20 members of Congress disclosed owning at least $1,001 worth of shares in BP or Transocean Ltd in their 2008 financial forms filed one year ago.
Kerry has sold his Transocean stock since the 2008 filing but still owns between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in BP, his spokeswoman confirmed. The annual disclosure forms require members of the Senate and House to specify only a general range of asset values, not specific dollar amounts.
Despite his financial interest in the company, the Massachusetts Democrat has taken a hard line on BP in public statements. “I think we can finally get that oil leak plugged if we stuff it with the BP executives’ bonus money,” Kerry, the lead sponsor of a climate change bill, said in a speech last week.
Kerry’s “inherited holdings in family trusts … clearly have no impact on his fight for a green economy and a clean environment,” spokeswoman Whitney Smith told the Center, adding that he has been a champion of environmental protection issues for more than 25 years.
Kerry was not alone in selling shares in BP or Transocean since lawmakers’ 2008 disclosures.
Aides to three members of Congress — Republican Senators Kit Bond of Missouri and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York — confirmed to the Center that that their bosses no longer owned stock in the companies, although they disclosed ownership stakes in 2008. Last year, Bond reported owning between $1,001 and $15,000 in Transocean shares while Gregg said he held between $15,001 and $50,000 in BP shares. Maloney said in her 2008 disclosure that she owned $50,001 to $100,000 worth of BP stock, which her spokesman noted had belonged to Maloney’s husband before his death.
Other lawmakers continue to own shares in the controversial companies.
The office of Rep. Gary Miller, a California Republican, confirmed to the Center that he owns $15,001-$50,000 worth of Transocean stock. While Miller has not sold the stock, he has recused himself from two House transportation committee hearings related to the oil spill in the Gulf. Miller will continue to recuse himself from any committee activity that is related to the spill, his spokeswoman said.
Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, is taking a different approach. His 26 shares in Transocean, worth between $1,000-$15,000 in 2008, came to him as a result of a merger between Transocean and another company, a spokesman said. While Cohen considered selling the shares, the spokesman said that he has not yet done so to avoid “any appearance of impropriety.”
Lawmakers’ 2009 disclosure forms were scheduled to be made public at 9 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.
UPDATE — 6/16/10 10:44 AM: The spokesman for Rep. Cohen told the Center that the lawmaker’s Transocean shares are worth $1,261 as of this week. Additionally, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Kaufman told the Center that the Delaware Democrat controlled stock in both BP and Transocean throughout 2008 and 2009, but has since sold it. These transactions are not included on the 2009 forms released this morning. The office of Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, confirmed for the Center that his $2,220 in Transocean stock was sold by April of 2009. Smith’s spokeswoman added that the stock was part of a “discretionary managed account,” out of the Congressman’s control.
UPDATE — 6/16/10 5:00 PM: The office of Sen. Sam Brownback told the Center that the Kansas Republican and his wife sold their BP shares a little over a month ago. Brownback listed $15,001 – $50,000 worth of BP stock on his 2008 disclosure forms. Spokeswoman Becky Ogilvie said the shares were issued by Amoco before it was acquired by BP and were a wedding gift for the senator’s wife. When asked why the lawmaker recently sold the stocks, Ogilvie stated that “The senator did not see any conflict of interest, but the Brownbacks decided to sell their stock to avoid even the appearance of conflict.” The share price of BP has fallen sharply since the company’s April 20 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gabriel Debenedetti contributed to this report.