Democratic Senate candidate Valentine seeks ban on stock trades, corporate PAC donations

By: - September 13, 2022 9:00 am

U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine, right, makes a June visit to the Annie Malone Children and Family Services in St. Louis, with Keisha Lee, interim CEO at Annie Malone (Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent).

Democratic Senate candidate Trudy Bush Valentine this week is rolling out a package of ethical standards she wants members of Congress to follow, including bans on individual stock trades and corporate political action committees.

The point, she said in an interview Monday afternoon, is to increase transparency in government while blocking lawmakers from profiting personally on special knowledge and reduce the influence of money in politics.

But speaking Monday with The Independent, Valentine could not name a trade by a member of Congress that offended her. She was also unable to say why her plan bans corporate PACs but allows those run by labor unions to continue operating.

“I think there was some question about some pharmaceutical companies’ stock being bought by some politicians, but I can’t give you exact people and what companies that was happening with,” Valentine said. “Anywhere a politician can profit off of something that they know about, that is wrong.”

Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, is making her first bid for public office running against state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the Republican nominee. She has contributed $3 million to her campaign so far, from the wealth she reported in July as totalling $67.5 million to $214.7 million and 2021 income of between $4.25 million and $30.5 million.

By endorsing a ban on trading individual stocks by members of Congress, Valentine aligned herself with Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. In July, citing recent trades in the microchip company Nvidia by the husband of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hawley called for Senate committee action on legislation to enact a ban.

Paul Pelosi purchased 20,000 shares in the company a few weeks before the Senate and the House voted on a bill with more than $52 billion for U.S. companies producing computer chips, as well as billions more in tax credits for chip manufacturing. He sold 25,000 shares, including some purchased in 2021, two days before the House vote, at a loss of $341,365, Business Insider reported.

Business Insider also reported that 72 members of Congress – 38 Republicans and 34 Democrats – have recently missed reporting deadlines for stock transactions, sometimes reporting them months after the deadline.

Her personal investments are handled by a money manager and she will put them in a blind trust if elected, Valentine said.

“I will never use insider trading information to do anything with my money,” she said.

The other points in Valentine’s ethics package are:

  • A lifetime ban on lobbying after members leave office. Currently, there is a one-year ban for House members and senior staff from both chambers and a two-year ban for Senators.
  • A public personal schedule and a push for legislation to require other members to do the same.
  • Banning foreign corporations and governments from hiring lobbyists.
  • Banning leadership PACs, which are political fundraising organizations to support members and their political ambitions separately from campaign committees.
  • Prohibiting lawmakers’ family from taking work as lobbyists.
  • Limiting trips paid by third parties intended to influence legislation.

The influence of corporate money is blocking action on bills to reduce prescription costs, promote affordable housing and control inflation, Valentine said in a statement accompanying the proposal.

Washington is “full of too many career politicians who are there for their own gain,” Valentine said. “They attend high-dollar fundraisers with lobbyists at fancy restaurants, enjoy luxury trips sponsored by corporate interest groups, and then vote in their favor instead of putting the needs of their constituents first. After they leave office, they go to work as lobbyists to boost their bank accounts.”

Corporate PACs contributed $165 million to federal candidates in the 2020 election and PACs affiliated with corporations spent hundreds of millions more to influence races. Labor union PACs gave almost $71 million to federal candidates and made $181.6 million in independent expenditures.

Her proposal would ban corporate PACs but allow union PACs to continue to spend. Asked what makes corporate money bad and union money good, Valentine was unable to give an answer.

“I definitely can look over this policy again,” Valentine said. “I don’t know everything. It’s important for me to go over this.”

Shortly after the interview ended, spokesman Jacob Long sent a clarifying statement to The Independent.

Our view is that union PACs represent Missouri workers and families (through voluntary contributions) and corporate PACs represent for-profit corporate interests,” Long wrote. “Banning union PACs would take power away from Missouri families and give more power to large corporations.”

Schmitt, who was a state Senator from 2009 to 2017, then state treasurer before becoming attorney general, has voted with lobbyists repeatedly during his career, Valentine said.

“He’s voted to protect the profits of the drug industry,” she said. “And more concerning to me, because this is what I’ve heard through rural Missouri and on farms, is that he’s allowed Chinese companies to buy up hundreds of thousands of acres of Missouri farmland.”

As a senator in 2013, Schmitt voted to increase the share of Missouri farmland in foreign ownership to 1% of the total, or 278,000 acres. 

The ethics proposal, Valentine said, will give voters a clearer picture of what is happening in Washington.

“As a United States Senator, I want transparency,” Valentine said. “I want honesty, and I want accountability in the government and the way it works. Politicians should not be working for corporations. They should not be working for lobbyists.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

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