Republican candidate Maria Elvira Salazar is taking aim at her Democratic opponent, Donna Shalala, after Shalala violated a federal law governing congressional members’ sale of stocks.
Shalala was selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to oversee a $500 billion corporate relief package in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. That pot of money was included in a larger relief bill recently approved by Congress.
That led to outcry from some, who noted Shalala’s most recent financial report showed she owned stocks in several companies which could benefit from those corporate payouts.
That disbursement hasn’t yet begun, and it wasn’t alleged Shalala had done anything wrong at that point. But critics worried her stock interests could impact her decision-making with regard to the oversight program.
Shalala responded by stating she had, in fact, already begun selling many of those interests shortly after joining Congress following her 2018 victory in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. While that may have assuaged some conflict of interests concerns, it raised other problems for the Congresswoman.
As a report from the Miami Herald notes, those sales were not publicly disclosed, which is a violation of the 2012 STOCK Act.
That law has gained traction recently after outcry that some members of Congress may have traded on inside information related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Shalala’s infraction is different in that she did not report her stock sales, which her team says were made throughout 2019. It’s not alleged that Shalala violated any insider trading laws.
Instead, Shalala spokesperson Carlos Condarco said the violation was due to a mistake from her financial advisor.
“She had a misunderstanding about the periodic transaction report process and her need to report the sale of these stocks while preparing a blind trust,” Condarco said, according to the Herald.
“As a new member with a broker and attorney who were not familiar with the congressional disclosure rules, there was a misunderstanding.”
Shalala, too, admitted Wednesday she did not adhere to reporting deadlines for those sales under the act.
“I missed those deadlines,” Shalala told Jim DeFede of CBS Miami.
“I was doing the opposite of insider trading. I was getting rid of any conflict of interest in the process. But I absolutely missed those deadlines and I apologize for [it]. It was my mistake and I take full responsibility.”
While her spokesperson said the lapse in reporting was due to a “misunderstanding,” Shalala admitted she was aware of the deadlines when pressed by DeFede.
“Look, I knew what the law was. I missed the deadlines. And I have to take responsibility, personal responsibility for doing that. No one else is responsible except for me.”
Salazar — who is running against Shalala in 2020 after the two faced off in 2018 — says the incumbent should cease involvement in overseeing that $500 billion relief package.
“She should recuse herself from the coronavirus oversight commission. She has broken the public’s trust,” Salazar said.
“What Donna Shalala did was not a ‘mistake’ but is deeply concerning. She is the ultimate political elitist who knows the system in and out. Her campaign slogan was ‘Ready From Day One.’
Salazar’s call mirrors remarks from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Donna Shalala broke the law and can’t be trusted to manage billions of dollars in taxpayer money,” NRCC Spokeswoman Camille Gallo said. “She must immediately resign from the coronavirus oversight panel.”
It’s true Shalala has some Washington, D.C. experience, despite never serving in Congress. She was the head of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bill Clinton administration before running for and winning the CD 27 seat in 2018.