Nancy Pelosi is calling for the House to impeach Trump for a quid pro quo with Ukraine. What about her own quid pro quo with Visa in 2008?
Early Thursday morning President Donald Trump egged on House Democrats pushing for impeachment, tweeting, “do it now, fast.” A couple hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced:
Today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment. The President leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt once again the election for his own benefit.
But Nancy Pelosi, a powerhouse Washington fundraiser and historically unmatched whip of House Democrats’ votes, has skeletons in her own closet.
She’s one of the House Democrats’ leading conflict-of-interest cases.
That includes improperly using her position of power for personal benefit in what appears to be a quid pro quo with Visa in 2008.
In 2007 the Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights Act was taking shape. Among other consumer protections, it would end Visa’s lucrative swipe fees. By the time Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced it in the House in February 2008, Visa had launched an all-out effort to influence Nancy Pelosi to delay the bill.
The timing was bad for Visa as the credit card giant approached its then record-setting $19.7 billion initial public offering. In Dec 2007, Dean Aguillen, one of Pelosi’s advisers, quit her team and went to work to lobby for Visa.
It was illegal for Aguillen to lobby his former boss for one year. He immediately registered to lobby against the credit card bill. Later Aguillen admitted to Newsweek he had contact with Pelosi’s office during this time.
A lobbyist directly familiar with Visa’s lobbying effort said:
We were sitting around the table and decided we needed a concerted effort related to Pelosi. We needed a full-court press.
Nancy Pelosi was House Speaker at the time. She held the power to bring bills up for a vote on the House floor, or bury them in committee. On the day the credit card bill was introduced, Pelosi referred it to Financial Services.
In March 2008, her husband Paul Pelosi got a phone call from his broker with a pre-screen invitation to invest in Visa at a price of $44 per share.
Paul Pelosi snapped up 5,000 shares of IPO Visa stock. In two days the hot stock jumped to $64 per share, netting the Pelosis a cool $100,000.
By July Visa, which had been enemies with Pelosi until the recent lobbying effort, sent her campaign $1,000 through its political action committee. That was on July 21, 2008. Two days later, its outgoing and incoming CEOs got a rare one-on-one meeting with the House Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi spent the rest of the year stalling the credit card bill of rights. She didn’t bring it up for a vote until 2009.
This episode in conflict of interests on Capitol Hill didn’t receive scrutiny from the press until 2011. That’s when CBS blew the lid off the story with a history-making report by Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.”
Pelosi fired back at the 60 Minutes report, attacking the source of the information as a “conservative author.” CBS says it independently verified the facts it sourced from Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the Stanford University Hoover Institution.
The American public was so captivated and outraged by the investigation, that it led directly to the passage in 2012 of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.
But the Alexandria, VA-based Congressional Institute argued in 2018 that insider trading was already illegal for members of Congress before the STOCK Act’s passage.
Indeed, federal courts expanded the reach of federal insider trading statutes in several decisions starting in 1984. In Dirks v. Securities and Exchange Commission the Supreme Court extended restrictions to “constructive insiders,” who gain inside knowledge while providing services to corporations.
United States v. Carpenter and United States v. O’Hagan further extend insider trading to include anyone “who acquires special knowledge or information by virtue of a confidential or fiduciary relationship with another.”
By 2000, the SEC enacted SEC Rule 10b5-1 defining insider trading as any trade made on the basis of “material nonpublic information.”
So when is the impeachment inquiry for Nancy Pelosi’s quid pro quo going to begin? She would likely object that there was no quid pro quo, because the Credit CARD Act eventually passed in 2009 with her support. That was the substance of her response to the “60 Minutes” story.
But by that reasoning, there was no quid pro quo with Donald Trump and the Ukraine either, because funds to Ukraine were eventually disbursed. Keeping it real, these kind of conflicts of interest happen all the time in Washington.
Lawmakers are perennially corrupt in this way. To an extent they are unavoidable in the natural course of lawmakers’ affairs.
Congress has looked the other way for years despite never ending promises to fix it. (They quietly undid the STOCK Act in 2013.)
Voters, who elect incumbents at startling rates, don’t seem to care either.
If we’re going to impeach Trump for Ukraine, we might as well impeach them all.
Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:21 PM