Congressional candidates disagree over husband’s stock holdings
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter email@example.com February 9, 2012 2:22AM
Updated: February 9, 2012 6:59PM
Rep. Judy Biggert has been a vocal champion for the Keystone Oil pipeline that President Barack Obama has, at least for the moment, killed.
Biggert, R-Hinsdale, backs the pipeline to pump oil from Canada through Nebraska to Louisiana.
“I support Keystone because it would create thousands of jobs and would benefit my constituents,” Biggert said.
But former Rep. Bill Foster, one of three Democrats running to be Biggert’s opponent this fall, says the fact that Biggert’s husband owns between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of stock in Trans Canada — the company that wants to build the pipeline — means Biggert might be letting her own financial interests color her judgement.
“Congresswoman Biggert should divest herself of the Keystone stock she owns, and, at a minimum recuse herself from voting on the Keystone project,” Foster said.
Biggert says Foster is trying to make a campaign issue out of a non-issue. The TransCanada stock is one of the smaller ones in her husband’s portfolio and would hardly bring her a windfall if the pipeline were approved, she said.
“Mr. Foster should mind his own business,” Biggert said. “Unlike Mr. Foster, my record of support for American energy is clear and unambiguous. My husband purchased TransCanada stock in 2004. I should tell my husband he should not own a stock? I don’t get that.”
This is not the kind of activity Congress is trying to prevent with Thursday’s scheduled vote on the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” or STOCK Act, Biggert said. That is designed to prevent someone purchasing stock based on insider knowledge of action Congress might take.
“This has nothing to do with the STOCK Act,” Biggert said. “If I was to know this was coming up and he bought it right now, that would be a different question.”
Some people mis-presumed that because Biggert raised notes of caution about the bill at a committee hearing and because she did not join other Democratic and Republican congress members from Illinois in co-sponsoring the bill that she opposed it. Biggert said she will be voting for the bill Thursday.
“I hope that we don’t over-react — we have a tendency to do that every time there’s a crisis,” Biggert told the Bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Walz, D-Minn., who held a hearing on the bill shortly after a 60 Minutes story on members of Congress making money from insider knowledge. Biggert said the bill’s 90-day window for members to report new stocks was too short. “I think people come here with very high standards. I think all of this just takes us down.”
Walz told Biggert, “I couldn’t agree more with you” and thanked the 14-year veteran for her “words of wisdom.”
In December, the Sunlight Foundation reported Biggert was one of four members of Congress who owned stock in TransCanada who were actively pushing the pipeline.
Obama, saying the Republicans had pushed for a vote without adequate time to study potential environmental damage the pipeline could cause Nebraska’s acquifer, put the kibosh on the project.
Earlier, on Nov. 10, Biggert tweeted: “WH caves to anti-American energy lobby, delays job-creating Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.”
Foster, who has moved from Geneva to Naperville, said he has not made up his mind whether he would support the pipeline.
Biggert is running for re-election in a new district Illinois’ Democrats drew connecting Aurora and Joliet in an effort to elect a suburban Democrat. Foster faces former Aurora Township Clerk Juan Thomas and Orland Fire Protection District President Jim Hickey in the Democratic primary.