During the 2004 presidential election, President Clinton’s former chief of staff and President Obama’s current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta offered Sen. John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry a sage piece of advice. The Senior Senator from Massachusetts would do well to heed it now:
“[The Kerrys] will have to seriously consider putting [their investments] 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.
Secretary Panetta is right. In the spirit of transparency and maintaining the public trust, Sen. Kerry must place his assets in a blind trust.
As the wealthiest member of Congress, Sen. Kerry’s $188.6 million net worth, and the enormous investments therein, raise the specter of a potential conflict of interest. To be sure, a blind trust is an imperfect instrument. As someone put it, “blind” trusts are not “deaf” trusts–dishonest people can still find ways to subvert them. Still, as someone who has served in the U.S. Senate for 26 years, Sen. Kerry fully understands the importance of avoiding the appearance of the kind of impropriety that further erodes the public’s already dwindling public trust.
Therefore, as bipartisan momentum for congressional insider trading laws, such as the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act (H.R. 1148), continue to grow on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kerry can demonstrate his leadership on the issue by committing to putting his investments in a blind trust. I urge him to do so.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. Sen. Kerry must follow the advice Secretary Panetta offered him seven years ago and establish a blind trust.