PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s office acknowledged Saturday he missed a deadline to disclose two stock trades, blaming it on an internal failure of communication.
Whitehouse filed a report Wednesday saying he had purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of shares in two companies — retailer Target and car maker Tesla — back on Jan. 28.
Under the 2012 STOCK Act, members of Congress are required to disclose stock trades and various other financial transactions within 45 days, making Whitehouse two days late in disclosing the January stock buys.
“The filing came two days late due to a staff transition in the office,” said Meaghan McCabe, a spokesperson for Whitehouse.
The issue was first reported by the website Insider as a follow-up to a December investigative report on stock trading in Congress.
“Lawmakers who are late disclosing their stock trades — dozens have been tardy in recent months — face a $200 fine for an initial offense,” according to Insider. “But Whitehouse won’t pay a penalty because the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which administers financial disclosure fines, allows violators a fine-free ‘grace period’ so long as they disclose their stock trades no more than 30 days late.”
The transactions Whitehouse reported this week were the first ones he has disclosed since last August, when he reported the sale of stock in three companies — Alibaba, Microchip Technology Inc., and AT&T — as well as corporate bonds issued by Macy’s. Those transactions yielded him somewhere between $46,000 and $165,000. (The dollar figures are reported in ranges, not specific amounts.)
Whitehouse’s financial dealings have repeatedly drawn critical news coverage over the years, including a 2017 Politico article that listed him among roughly three dozen lawmakers who had traded the stocks of companies affected by federal policy.
However, the third-term Democrat has always maintained that he has no direct influence over the buying and selling done in his accounts, a position McCabe reiterated Saturday.
“The senator does not trade stocks himself, nor is he consulted by the account manager regarding trades,” she said.
Whitehouse, a descendant of the 19th-century railroad baron Charles Crocker, is the wealthiest member of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, with an estimated net worth of $7.4 million as of 2018, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit research group. The net worth of his senior Senate colleague, Jack Reed, was estimated at $107,000 that year.
Members of Congress are facing increasing scrutiny of their financial activities, with growing momentum behind passage of a law that would ban them from trading individual securities.
“The senator supports a ban on trades and is working with proponents of multiple bills to reach a unified caucus position,” McCabe said.
The other three members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation — Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin and Congressman David Cicilline — have all said they would support a ban on trading by federal lawmakers, too.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook