As a congressional candidate last year, Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-NY) pledged to form a “blind trust” for his massive stock portfolio — a move designed to shield himself from financial conflicts of interest by giving an independent body control of the administration of his private business dealings.
“The fact of the matter is I have spent my entire career in public service, taking down gun traffickers, fighting against corrupt individuals, being a strong advocate for anti-corruption, and then obviously being in the trenches protecting and defending our democracy,” Goldman said during an August debate. “So whatever you want to reference, I was in a blind trust with all my money when I was a prosecutor. I will put my money in a blind trust as a congressperson.”
But three-and-a-half months into Goldman’s congressional tenure, staffers for the congressman — an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune who served as lead prosecutor in then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial — confirm that, while Goldman has begun the process of forming a blind trust, he hasn’t yet established one.
In the meantime, Goldman, whose 10th District of New York includes the New York Stock Exchange, has established himself as one of Capitol Hill’s most active equity traders.
Since early January, Goldman has bought or sold shares of individual stocks more than 480 times, far outpacing many other congressional super-traders, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), according to a Raw Story analysis of congressional financial disclosures.
Some of the congressman’s stock trades involve politically noteworthy or sensitive corporations — defense contractors, tobacco companies, banking firms — at a time when some Democrats and Republicans alike are agitating for an outright ban on lawmakers trading individual stocks in the name of curbing conflicts of interest.
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Goldman’s congressional office stressed that the freshman congressman does not have day-to-day control of his stock assets and is eager to form what’s known in Capitol Hill parlance as a “qualified blind trust” — a formal and publicly declared arrangement, which Congress must approve, in which Goldman would officially transfer management of his stocks and other financial assets to an independent trustee.
“Congressman Goldman is not involved in trading stocks in his portfolio, which is managed entirely by an investment adviser,” spokesperson Simone Kanter said in a statement. “As he promised to do, immediately upon being sworn in, the congressman initiated the process of entering into a blind trust. This process is ongoing in coordination with the House Ethics Committee, and House Ethics has provided a timeline of up to one year for completion.”
But questions remain. Goldman’s office declined to make the congressman available for an interview, and Goldman’s staff declined to provide specific details about his personal finances, including who manages and executes stock trades on the congressman’s behalf.
Goldman’s office also declined to say why Goldman hasn’t abstained from trading individual stocks altogether or whether the congressman has given his investment adviser broad advice for managing his stocks — for example, investing more heavily in a certain class of stocks, or steering clear of particular industries.
“We’ll let the statement stand on its own,” Kanter said.
Beyond that, there’s little transparency into the process of Goldman — or any member of Congress — establishing a qualified blind trust.
There’s no published record of requests to begin such a process, no public hearings, no public status updates. Official documents establishing a qualified blind trust are not placed on the public record until after the fact, usually weeks after one has been officially created. The process itself can be expensive, particularly for lawmakers such as Goldman whose holdings are voluminous and more complicated than most.
Tom Rust, the House Ethics Committee’s chief counsel and staff director, declined to comment.
“When elected officials are trading stocks at a time when they’re supposed to be overseeing companies, we need to make sure that the public has the faith and confidence that elected officials are doing the bidding of the public interest and not trying to line their pockets and do what’s in their private interest,” said Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a nonpartisan government reform organization.
Ideally, all members of Congress would either abstain from trading individual stocks or put assets in a blind trust — particularly stock in companies they oversee through the work on their congressional committees, Scherb said.
Goldman is a member of the House’s Homeland Security and Oversight and Accountability committees, as well as the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
As Goldman is experiencing, creating a congressionally approved qualified blind trust is “not a simple, just-flip-the-switch type of situation,” Scherb added.
Wall Street’s congressman
Goldman represents New York’s 10th Congressional District, which includes lower Manhattan — and Wall Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange and numerous financial firms.
Some of Goldman’s stock trades this year involve companies that have found themselves in the midst of recent political scandals, are heavily involved in lobbying the federal government, or both.
Among Goldman’s notable stock trades since becoming a member of Congress:
- Credit Suisse Group: Purchased up to $15,000 worth of shares in the troubled Swiss bank that congressional investigators have recently accused of helping Americans commit tax fraud. (Lawmakers are only required to disclose the value of their stock trades in broad ranges.)
- Tesla: Sold between $100,000 and $250,000 in the automaker led by billionaire Elon Musk, and later, purchased up to $50,000 in the company’s stock.
- Defense contractors: Purchased up to $50,000 in Lockheed Martin Corporation, up to $50,000 in L3Harris Technologies and sold up to $50,000 each in both Raytheon Technologies Corporation and the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Lockheed, for one, spent more than $13.6 million lobbying the federal government during 2022, according to federal records compiled by nonprofit research group OpenSecrets. Over the years, Raytheon and Lockheed, for two, have been the recipients of large government contracts from the Department of Homeland Security, which Goldman oversees as part of his service on the House’s Homeland Security Committee.
- Tobacco companies: The congressman purchased up to $65,000 worth of Altria Group stock during January and February and $50,000 in British American Tobacco Industries stock on Feb. 27. Separately, he sold up to $100,000 in British American Tobacco Industries stock on Jan. 13.
News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interest among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal has reported.
A plan to enact a congressional stock-trade ban failed during the 2021-2022 congressional session after Democratic House leaders, led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), declined to bring any of several existing bills — including one floated by House leaders themselves — up for a vote. President Joe Biden continues to remain silent on the matter, much to the frustration of many government reform groups.
But this year, a bipartisan group of members of Congress, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), are renewing efforts to ban federal lawmakers and their spouses from trading stocks altogether. Cryptocurrency trades are also a target.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who does not personally trade stocks, has expressed openness to entertaining a stock trade ban of some sort, but has not formally endorsed a plan.
Meanwhile in the Senate, a “working group” of primarily Democratic senators is finalizing similar proposed legislation that would also aim to ban members of Congress and their immediate family from buying and selling stock, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.
The Senate bill would also give federal lawmakers the option to place certain personal assets, such as stocks, in blind trusts. This group of senators, led by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, met regularly last year but did not advance a stock ban bill before the 117th Congress concluded in early January.
Goldman “supports legislation that would prohibit members of Congress from trading individual stocks,” Kanter said.
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And Goldman — unlike dozens of his congressional colleagues — has this year properly disclosed his numerous stock trades in a timely fashion as mandated by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, a federal transparency and conflicts-of-interest law that requires lawmakers to publicly report any stock or crypto transaction within 45 days.Goldman did, however, catch heat earlier this year for another kind of violation: the New York Post reported that the congressman’s two luxury vehicles had amassed dozens of vehicle citations, mostly for parking infractions. At the time of publication, the congressman had reportedly paid almost all of the associated fines.
This article has been updated to include more than 230 new stock trades that Goldman publicly disclosed shortly after publication.