With details now erupting on Capitol Hill about Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) questionable investments, a curious question lingers: why did it take a Tallahassee-based think tank wonk to uncover a former presidential candidate’s aggressive trading of pharmaceutical stock during both the 2009 Obamacare debate and the 2003 prescription drug benefit plan debate?
After all, as Throw Them All Out makes clear, Sen. Kerry, while serving as a member of the Health Subcommittee on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, made huge profits off of healthcare-related trades.
So why didn’t the mainstream media expose the story, especially involving a man who ran for the nation’s highest office?
One explanation for the media’s failure to properly vet Mr. Kerry’s finances might be that some journalists believed reports like this 2005 USA Today article that claimed Mr. Kerry has a blind trust. However, according to his financial disclosure forms, Mr. Kerry does not have a blind trust. With a minimum net worth of $188.6 million, The Hill notes that Mr. Kerry is the richest member of Congress. According to Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out, “the bulk of the Kerrys’ wealth resides in a series of marital trust and commingled fund accounts. All together, these funds include significant investments in stocks of many corporations.”
In an interview with Peter Schweizer, the author further explained that the Kerrys’ investment funds include two small funds run by Teresa Heinz Kerry’s sons, both of whom are close to Mr. Kerry and worked in senior positions on his 2004 presidential campaign. The Sustainable Technologies fund is run by Andre Heinz. He has little financial experience. The fund is set up in Sweden. The Kerrys have multiple investments in the fund through several of their trusts. Another son, Christopher Heinz, runs Rosemont Capital, where they also have invested. But neither of these are blind trusts, despite what some news outlets erroneously reported.Given Mr. Kerry’s myriad investments, a second explanation for media missing the story might have been that reporters assumed the former presidential candidate must have had a blind trust to avoid the potential for, or appearance of, any conflict of interest. And indeed, as the Los Angeles Times reported, during the 2004 presidential election, even Democratic loyalists like Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta advised Mr. Kerry to seriously consider placing his fortunes in a blind trust:
Leon E. Panetta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton, agreed that although the amount of Heinz Kerry’s wealth was not a campaign issue, it could cause problems if Kerry were elected.
“They will have to seriously consider putting it in a blind trust,” Panetta said. “All of us who have served in government have had to do that. In the end, it is the better way to go, because it removes any suspicion that a decision is self-serving. You have enough problems just making a decision, without dealing with the concern you may be putting money in your pocket.”
Yet Mr. Panetta’s quote should have made it clear to anyone reading–and especially to journalists at the Los Angeles Times–that Mr. Kerry did not, in fact, have a blind trust. So why did the media fail to properly vet a presidential candidate’s investments?
For conservatives, the answer is simple: liberal media bias. But Schweizer says he finds the media’s glaring oversight disheartening.
“The fact that it took a Tallahassee-based policy wonk working with a team of college student researchers to uncover the ‘honest graft’ by Democrats and Republicans and publish it all in a book like Throw Them All Out is, I think, a little depressing,” he says. “The media play an important role in vetting our leaders. When they fail to do so, it hurts us all, regardless of our political views.”