Gabe Kaminsky, DCNF
- Democratic Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper recently disclosed asset trades potentially worth over $1 million an average of roughly 333 days after execution, filings show.
- Multiple watchdog groups say the senator’s move is a clear STOCK Act violation and criticized him for failing to follow the law.
- “Members need to take the act seriously,” said Gary Kalman, director of Transparency International U.S. “It is an important anti-corruption tool to dissuade potentially illegal behavior and help identify when a member does cross the line.”
Democratic Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper disclosed asset trades in May an average of roughly 333 days late, filings show, which experts told The Daily Caller News Foundation violates a law in place to track lawmakers’ financial conflicts of interest.
Hickenlooper disclosed on May 16 that his wife sold between $350,000 to $750,000 combined shares of Liberty Media – where she is senior vice president of corporate development – in March 2021 and November 2021. The senator’s wife also sold between $200,000 to $500,000 in combined Liberty Broadband shares in March and September of last year, while Hickenlooper bought between $15,000 to $50,000 of non-public stock in a Denver “bar and music lounge.”
Hickenlooper and his spouse, in total, made three trades that were 185, 257 and 370 days late and two trades that were each 427 days late — or 333 days late on average, according to data from Capitol Trades.
Hickenlooper’s disclosure is a clear violation of The STOCK Act, experts explained to TheDCNF, which holds that lawmakers must publicize all transactions of $1,000 or more within 30 days of receiving notice and within 45 days of the transaction’s date. His filing damages the efficacy of the law as a mechanism to prevent corruption, track apparent conflicts of interests and insider trading, experts said.
“Ultimately, this instance involving Senator Hickenlooper is just one more of many manifestations of the problem with the STOCK Act; namely, it is insufficient and isn’t working toward its intended objective,” Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager for the Project On Government Oversight, told TheDCNF.
Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, told TheDCNF it becomes harder to track conflicts of interest as time passes.
“It is very difficult to nearly impossible to reconstruct what Members were working on a year ago and thus making it difficult to monitor for conflicts of interest,” said Arnold. “This is the only mechanism that can reveal conflicts of interest, although disclosing a conflict does not remedy the actual conflict if one exists.”
A major problem with late disclosure is that members are not able to recuse from votes that could present a conflict of interest, said Arnold.
A spokeswoman for Hickenlooper did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
Hickenlooper and his wife have traded more than two dozen stocks in the past three years, records show. The senator, who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, sold between roughly $2 million to $4 million of tech stock shares in November 2021 and October 2021. These included holdings in Amazon, Google parent company Alphabet, Facebook parent company Meta, Microsoft and PayPal.
Hickenlooper disclosed the 10th-most financial trades out of all members between January 2020 and January 2022, Axios reported. The senator has reported owning six figures worth of oil and gas stocks while sitting on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Insider reported.
As of now, timely transaction disclosure is important to ensure public officials “are not unfairly benefiting” from insider information, Gary Kalman, director of Transparency International U.S., told TheDCNF.
“Members need to take the Act seriously,” said Kalman. “It is an important anti-corruption tool to dissuade potentially illegal behavior and help identify when a member does cross the line.”
In January, Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff sponsored the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which has stalled since being introduced. Over 125 Republican and Democratic members have backed some form of legislation seeking to ban members of Congress from trading stocks, OpenSecrets reported.
Voters have signaled support for restrictions on members trading stocks, with three out of four respondents saying so in a January poll by the Convention of States Action. Only 5% of respondents said they approve of members trading.
Members and their immediate families should be banned from stock trading, according to Hedtler-Gaudette.
“This fact demands action from Congress that addresses the problem at the root and flat-out prohibits members of Congress and their immediate families from trading stocks and other similar assets at all, full stop,” he said. “This is the only way to ensure that certain kinds of conflicts of interest are mitigated and that insider trading is prevented once and for all.”
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