Is Senator Steve Daines fattening his investment portfolio at the expense of Montanans? A look at his investments while in the Senate shows that Daines invested large sums of money in healthcare funds precisely at the time he was voting on major legislation affecting them, including investment in insurance and Big Pharma made just as he was voting to end the Affordable Care Act.
In 2017 and 2018, Daines made 118 mutual fund transactions totaling as much as $6.8 million while casting votes on the Senate floor, and at least a few are quite troubling.
One striking example of these purchases came in 2017. On July 24 and 25th of that year, Daines purchased up to $100,000 in shares of the Vanguard Health Care Fund Admiral Shares Fund, which is heavily invested in health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Its top holdings have included insurers Anthem Inc and UnitedHealth, and pharmaceutical giants Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly and more.
And on July 25, 2017, the very day he invested in the fund, Daines voted, in a critical 50-50 procedural vote that paved the way for the Republican effort to end the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the Republican American Health Care Act:
Senate Republicans mustered the support necessary to clear a key procedural hurdle Tuesday that will allow the chamber to hold a vote on several pieces of legislation designed to, in some fashion or another, overhaul the U.S. health insurance system. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to clear the Senate motion to proceed with the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, after weeks of hand-wringing and backroom deal-making by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
These votes against the ACA were widely seen as benefiting investors by reducing the protections available to consumers. From USA Today:
“Still, there are pluses for stocks under the Senate plan, according to Wall Street analysts. They include: a ‘less draconian’ approach to drug pricing; eliminating taxes paid by the rich to pay for Obamacare; and establishing two funds totaling $119 billion to stabilize the individual insurance exchanges, which have come under pressure due to rising premiums. ‘The Senate bill, though similar to the House bill, is seen as more moderate,’ said Jeffrey Loo, health care equity analyst at CFRA Research.”
Daines made a similar purchase in 2018 when he invested more into the Vanguard Health Care Fund Admiral Shares just as the government shutdown delayed health insurance taxes.
On 1/24/18, Daines reported another investment of up to $100,000 in the account.
“Three Obamacare taxes have been put on ice — for now — by the deal that ended the shutdown of the federal government. The stopgap spending deal reached by Congress on Monday suspended imposition of the three taxes: the so-called Cadillac tax on high-value health plans, a 2.3 percent levy on medical devices and the health insurance tax. On Tuesday, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation projected that suspension of the taxes will add $31.25 billion to the federal budget deficit over the next several years. The health insurance tax on insurers, which was projected to collect more than $14 billion in revenue this year, was suspended for one year. It now is set to take effect in 2019.”
These purchases are not evidence of insider trading nor even a violation of the law, but violations of the public trust. Senator Daines, who has made a career of writing himself tax breaks for his real estate business, is also voting against our physical and mental health to improve the health of his investment portfolio.
Those rural hospitals the Daines is now belatedly giving credit for their frontline response to COVID-19? In July of 2017, he was voting to end the Medicaid Expansion vital to keeping them open and keeping Montanans healthy. And, at the very same time, he was investing in insurers and Big Pharma to make a buck while he stripped us of adequate care.
Unfortunately, the 2012 STOCK Act, designed to prevent insider trading by members of Congress, does not mandate timely reporting of these transactions. We will, for instance, not know about the mutual fund transactions Senator Daines made in 2020 until after his election in 2021, but Senator Daines owes it to us to make these 2020 investments transparent now. While he votes on measures to deal with the COVID-crisis, we deserve to know if Daines is motivated by pecuniary interests that overpower the interests of the people he should represent. And we deserve an explanation for these earlier investments, too.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about this same pattern of investments and Daines’s response to China. It isn’t pretty.