The Office of Congressional Ethics is recommending that a congressional panel subpoena U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and his wife as it investigates whether a stock purchase she made was the result of confidential information Kelly received in his role as a public official.
The recommendation was part of a report released Thursday, which concluded that there is “substantial reason" to believe that Kelly, a six-term Republican lawmaker from Butler County, and his wife, Victoria, violated House ethics rules.
On April 29, 2020, Victoria Kelly purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 in stock in Cleveland-Cliffs. The company owns a steel plant in the congressman's district that employs 1,400 workers, but was threatened by foreign steel imports.
Kelly had been lobbying the Trump administration to help the struggling steel plant. A day before his wife's stock purchase, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told Cleveland-Cliffs' CEO that the government would soon announce a new investigation into steel imports, which could benefit the company.
According to the report released Thursday, Kelly's office learned of that development the same day from both Cleveland-Cliffs and a senior Commerce Department official.
When that investigation was announced five days later, Kelly lauded it in a press release, thanking the Trump administration for “hearing our community's concerns and taking action to end the unfair trade practices that threaten AK Steel's ability to continue production of electrical steel."
The news meant the share that Kelly's wife purchased rose in value. She held onto the steel plant stock until January 2021, when the shares purchased for approximately $4.70 each sold for $18.11 per share.
Members of the U.S. House and their staffers are prohibited from using their official positions for personal gain.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the first to report in September 2020 that the stock buy raised ethical questions.
The Office of Congressional Ethics report found the stock purchase to be unusual for the Kellys, noting not only the timing of the transaction but also that it was Victoria Kelly's first individual stock purchase in 11 months.
Kelly, his wife, and Kelly's former chief of staff, Matt Stroia, all refused to cooperate with the Office of Congressional Ethics review, according to the report from OCE.
Asked for comment on the ethics report, Kelly spokesman Matt Knoedler said in a written statement that Kelly “has been open and transparent about his required financial disclosures during his decade in the United States House of Representatives, including the inquiry by the House Committee on Ethics."
“Details published in news reports regarding those disclosures were found because the congressman publicly reported his financial records," Knoedler said. “Both the congressman and Mrs. Kelly have been, and will continue to be, advocates and supporters of the Butler Works/Cleveland Cliffs plant in Butler, where they are lifelong residents."
In a response letter posted on the House Committee on Ethics website, Kelly's attorney wrote that they “respectfully disagree with many of the assertions and characterizations in the report," and argued that there's no proof that Kelly provided his wife with any non-public information prior to the stock purchase.
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