Nonpartisan ethics watchdog Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on Thursday alleging that Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) violated federal law and House ethics rules by selling and then not reporting stocks.
According to the FACT complaint, Shalala, a former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary under Bill Clinton, sold at least six stocks between November 2018 and November 2019 without reporting the transactions.
“Financial disclosures are required to ensure that Members do not have conflicts of interest and are not wrongly profiting from their positions,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT, in a statement on Friday.
“By failing to disclose her stock trades, Representative Shalala has compromised public trust in the ethics and transparency of our government, and she deserves to be sanctioned accordingly,” added Arnold.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently appointed Shalala to serve on a new congressional oversight commission to track the implementation of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Shalala admitted that she sold the stocks to eliminate a potential conflict of interest.
Shalala said this week, “I absolutely missed those deadlines, and I apologize for them. It was my mistake, and I take full responsibility.”
Pelosi backed Shalala amid the controversy. The house speaker said in a statement on Wednesday:
Since coming to Congress, Congresswoman Shalala has taken aggressive steps to avoid even the suggestion of a conflict of interest over her personal investments. Rep. Shalala has taken responsibility for her mistake in missing filings required under the Stock Act and has been working (with) the Ethics Committee to address this issue since she became aware of it.
However, FACT and other ethics watchdogs said that Shalala should face consequences for a potential violation of the STOCK Act.
Arnold wrote in the complaint to the OCE:
The Ethics in Government Act does not allow for Members to not file the required reports without consequence. The disclosure requirements are an integral part of the law to create an ethical and transparent government. It is not a technical requirement for Members — timely and and accurate filing the only method for citizens to determine whether Members have conflicts of interest or are wrongly profiting from their position. Should the OCE conclude that Rep. Shalala violated these legal requirements, it must impose appropriate sanctions including fines and penalties.
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, wrote in a statement this week, “It’s unacceptable for a member who is apparently unfamiliar with the basic reporting requirements in the Stock Act to serve on a congressional committee tasked with overseeing the federal government’s spending related to the current coronavirus crisis.”