The Republican challenger to Rep. Dean Phillips criticized the congressman this week over his potential stock trading conflicts, urging Minnesotans to “connect the dots.”
Tom Weiler, looking to unseat Phillips from the U.S. House in this year’s midterm elections, responded Wednesday to Phillips’ inclusion in a New York Times report on congressional stock trading.
One of Congress’ wealthiest members, Phillips reported trades in 276 companies and has 34 possible conflicts of interest. Both tallies are among the highest out of all 97 congressional members included in the report.
The most notable potential conflicts relate to Phillips’ work on the Financial Services Committee. For example, Phillips appears to have sloughed off his shares in four banks just prior to the testimony of their executives at a committee hearing in April 2019, as well as his shares in Wells Fargo as the committee began investigating the bank in early 2020.
In a statement, Weiler urged Minnesotans to “connect the dots” on Phillips’ “abuse of his position” and “lack of true leadership.”
“The facts in yesterday’s New York Times article are yet another example of Phillips taking advantage of his committee assignments for personal gain,” Weiler said. “His actions are those of an out-of-touch professional politician, not a representative of Minnesotans in the Third District.”
“From conducting more than $550,000 worth of transactions in February of 2020 and focusing on medical companies the day he received a Foreign Affairs brief, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, to his 150 transactions involving banks and financial institutions while on the Financial Services Committee, Phillips’ actions are clear,” he added.
In addition to his role on the Financial Services Committee, Phillips also serves on the Ethics Committee. The Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) filed an ethics complaint against Phillips in October 2020 over concerns about his trading early in the pandemic.
“The fact that a congressman was buying and selling stock immediately before major price moves related to his work on House subcommittees certainly calls for an investigation and, more importantly, an explanation from Rep. Phillips,” MVA executive director Andy Cilek said at the time.
Phillips and his team have long rejected accusations of wrongdoing whenever the subject of stock trading comes up.
“I don’t trade stocks and haven’t had contact [with] my advisors since 2018,” he tweeted Tuesday in response to the Times report. “My assets are in a ‘blind trust,’ meaning I can’t see what is bought and sold on my behalf — one of only a handful in Congress to have taken that step. I believe it’s time all members of Congress do the same.”
A spokesperson told the Times that Phillips began transferring his assets to the blind trust with the help of a law firm in January 2020, but it took until July 2021 for most to be transferred, and as of this August some assets still had yet to be transferred.
“The best Phillips can come up with is to borrow yet another tactic from the Biden administration. Just like Hunter Biden never talked to the ‘Big Guy,’ Dean expects us to believe he never talked to his investors. Sure,” Weiler said.
Phillips also tweeted that he supports a ban on accepting contributions from lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) — claiming to be only one of two members of Congress who categorically refuse them — as well as the TRUST in Congress Act, a bill that would require all members of Congress to place their financial investments into a blind trust.
The idea of banning congressional officeholders from stock trading appears to have gained popularity in recent years, but Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a supporter of the idea, recently said that such a bill would not be passed prior to the midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8.