Sen. Ron Wyden Pushes Legislation to Expand Semiconductor Production as Family Invests in Them

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) makes an opening statement to Xavier Becerra, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, during his Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing on February 24, 2021 at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG …
GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) is preparing legislation that will expand the production of semiconductors only weeks after his family members purchased stock in semiconductor tool manufacturers.

Wyden and two other Democrat senators on March 16 released a joint statement to announce they were working on legislation to “expand production of critical technologies like semiconductors, batteries and solar components” in the name of “economic recovery.” The press release said (emphasis added):

Investments in manufacturing and clean energy must be the foundation of our long-term economic recovery. Achieving that goal requires investing resources to help manufacturers expand, building a robust market for their products and creating good-paying jobs that support a middle-class life.

‘By building on tools with records of success, we can also boost manufacturing in communities that have been left behind. We are working on new legislation that would expand production of critical technologies like semiconductors, batteries and solar components. These proposals would significantly increase federal investment in both the technology needed to transition to a net-zero emission economy, and the workers needed to develop and produce that technology.

‘Congress has an opportunity to support the rebuilding of our economy in a way that creates middle-class jobs, invests in underserved communities and finally addresses the most pressing challenges we face as a country.’

The announcement came just about three weeks after Wyden’s millionaire wife bought between $2,000 and $30,000 worth of stock in two American companies that, according to Reuters, “dominate” the semiconductor toolmaking industry.

According to Wyden’s latest public financial disclosures report on March 23, 2021, Wyden’s wife Nancy Bass Wyden on February 26, 2021, purchased between $1,001-$15,000 worth of stock in Applied Materials, Inc., a company that describes itself as “the leader in materials engineering solutions used to produce virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world.”

That same day, she also purchased between $1,001-$15,000 worth of stock in KLA Corporation, an American company that “designs, manufactures, and markets process control and yield management solutions for the semiconductor and related nanoelectronics industries worldwide.”

Also that same day, she purchased between $1,001-$15,000 worth of stock in Seagate Technology, an American mass data storage solutions company. Fox Business first reported the stock purchases on March 24.

Another financial disclosures report from the month before, posted February 18, 2021, shows one of his dependent children — whose name is not listed — purchased between $3,000 and $45,000 worth of stock in KLA corporation through a brokerage account on January 27, 2021.

The Wydens’ stock purchases also come as more than a dozen business groups and chipmakers are pressuring President Joe Biden to provide federal funding for the construction of new chip factories.

According to Reuters and Semiconductor Industry Association, the business groups sent Biden a letter on February 18, 2021, that said, “To be competitive and strengthen the resilience of critical supply chains, we believe the U.S. needs to incentivize the construction of new and modernized semiconductor manufacturing facilities and invest in research capabilities.”

The week before, on February 11, 2021, the Semiconductor Industry Association sent a similar letter.

Congress in December 2020 enacted bipartisan legislation titled the “Creating Helpful Incentives for Producing Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act” as part of an annual Pentagon authorization bill, which authorized a subsidy program for American semiconductor manufacturers, but did not fund the program.

Industry groups are hopeful funds will be provided through pandemic recovery and infrastructure spending measures, according to SIA.

Fox Business reported it is not the first time Wyden’s stock purchases have caused controversy.

She bought at least $115,000 in Amazon stock during the pandemic last year while simultaneously laying off workers at The Strand, the historic New York City bookstore she owns.

Wyden’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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