60 Minutes Cherry Picks Book To Make Congressional Insider Trading Mostly a GOP Scandal

November 13th, 2011 11:52 PM

When CBS's Steve Kroft recently asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) some penetrating questions about stock purchases she and her husband made, the internet was abuzz with rumors about an upcoming 60 Minutes installment about the wealthy couple that have been known to use her political interest for their mutual benefit.

Unfortunately, this Sunday's 60 Minutes piece about Congressional insider trading cherry picked from author Peter Schweizer's soon to be released book "Throw Them All Out" to make it look like this is largely a Republican scandal (video follows with commentary):

After speaking with the Hoover Institution's Schweizer about his research, Kroft cited acts of legal but potentially corrupt financial dealings by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), and Pelosi.

As such, four of the five lawmakers named were Republicans certainly giving viewers the impression this is largely a GOP scandal.

Yet a source that has seen an advanced copy of Schweizer's book says that 60 to 70 percent of the offenders named are Democrats.

According to Newsweek's Peter J. Boyer, one of them is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.):

While examining trades made around the time of the 2003 Medicare overhaul, Schweizer experienced what he calls his “Holy crap!” moment. The legislation, which created a new prescription-drug entitlement, promised to be a huge boon to the pharmaceutical industry—and to savvy investors in the Capitol. Among those with special insight on the issue was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the health subcommittee of the Senate’s powerful Finance Committee. Kerry is one of the wealthiest members of the Senate and heavily invested in the stock market. As the final version of the drug program neared approval—one that didn’t include limits on the price of drugs—brokers for Kerry and his wife were busy trading in Big Pharma. Schweizer found that they completed 111 stock transactions of pharmaceutical companies in 2003, 103 of which were buys.

“They were all great picks,” Schweizer notes. The Kerrys’ capital gains on the transactions were at least $500,000, and as high as $2 million (such information is necessarily imprecise, as the disclosure rules allow members to report their gains in wide ranges). It was instructive to Schweizer that Kerry didn’t try to shape legislation to benefit his portfolio; the apparent key to success was the shaping of trades that anticipated the effect of government policy. [...]

The Kerry trustees’ impeccable timing in drug company trades was evident again in 2007, when the federal government was weighing whether to discontinue Medicare reimbursement for certain anemia drugs used by cancer patients. When the government announced that it would limit reimbursements, shares in Amgen, one of the drugmakers at issue, dropped 15 percent. Kerry’s wife happened to be an Amgen stockholder but avoided losses; her shares, valued at between $500,000 and $1 million, were unloaded more than a week before the government’s announcement.

Kroft and 60 Minutes didn't mention a word of this. Nor did they mention potentially more serious corruption identified in Schweizer's book as he wrote at Newsweek Saturday:

[A]n examination of grants and guaranteed loans offered by just one stimulus program run by the Department of Energy, for alternative-energy projects, is stunning. The so-called 1705 Loan Guarantee Program and the 1603 Grant Program channeled billions of dollars to all sorts of energy companies. The grants were earmarked for alternative-fuel and green-power projects, so it would not be a surprise to learn that those industries were led by liberals. Furthermore, these were highly competitive grant and loan programs—not usually a hallmark of cronyism. Often fewer than 10 percent of applicants were deemed worthy.

Nevertheless, a large proportion of the winners were companies with Obama-campaign connections. Indeed, at least 10 members of Obama’s finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting your money. At the same time, several politicians who supported Obama managed to strike gold by launching alternative-energy companies and obtaining grants. How much did they get? According to the Department of Energy’s own numbers ... a lot. In the 1705 government-backed-loan program, for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party. The grant and guaranteed-loan recipients were early backers of Obama before he ran for president, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008. Their political largesse is probably the best investment they ever made in alternative energy. It brought them returns many times over.


Kroft and 60 Minutes didn't mention one word of this Sunday despite it being prominently featured in Schweizer's book.

Also ignored were other offenders exposed by Schweizer such as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mt.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

I guess those names weren't "household" enough for 60 Minutes to bother exposing.

To be sure, I am by no means suggesting this is exclusively a Democrat scandal. Schweizer's book clearly identifies this is a bipartisan problem.

However, by featuring four out of five offenders as Republicans Sunday, 60 Minutes was clearly trying to imply otherwise as it dishonestly protected lawmakers more closely aligned with its political leaning.

(Full transcript available at CBSNews.com)